Wednesday, January 25, 2012

On Monday Cyprien Gaillard and his younger brother Matisse came to town in advance of Cyprien’s talk at ECUAD, an event organized by Presentation House Gallery. Cyprien had expressed interest in touring our ruins, so I took them first to the literal (the recently demolished Pantages Theatre near Hastings and Main), before ending with the figurative (the Museum of Anthropology at UBC).

Cyprien’s tour request came as no surprise, given his interest in entropy, the sublime, "land art" and documentary fiction. In many ways, he is the inheritor of Robert Smithson, who, along with Robert Fillou, Dan Graham, Mary Kelly and Paul McCarthy, has had a huge influence on local practices, at least for my generation and older.

Cyprien, who has all the assurance of Smithson, showed a number of works during his talk, ending with documentation of The Recovery of Discovery (2011), a beer pyramid (beer-amid?) which he invited gallery patrons to both sit on and drink from.

While power-pointing through Recovery, it occurred to me that Cyprien’s achievement is to take Smithson’s notions of geometry and entropy and deliver them to a popular audience. That he used free beer obviously helped that along. That the beer was warm is a testament to the power of art.

There are a number of similarities between Cyprien’s work and a younger generation of Vancouver artists, particularly his fire-extinguisher-in-the-landscape pieces, which brought to mind Kevin Schmidt’s dry ice nocturnal forests (Fog, 2004). Same with a booze-guzzling monodrama from Cities of Gold and Mirrors (2009), which made me think of Jeremy Shaw’s Best Minds (2008).

Although tonight is Cyprien’s last night in Vancouver, there is already talk of his return. Whether towards a commissioned work, or to take more photographs, or both, no one knows but Cyprien.

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