Matt Carissimi / Lantern Photographer
The work of Cyprien Gaillard both captures and interacts with the landscapes it presents. It’s fine art with a spirit of vandalism.
Growing up in Paris, Gaillard’s perspective was cultivated through his exposure to skateboarding and graffiti. In urban fixtures of corporate and metropolitan life, Gaillard sees something more.
In an artist’s talk at the Wexner Center on Thursday, Gaillard showcased several short films and discussed his style and influences.
“I don’t make art in a studio. I don’t have any interest in doing that,” Gaillard said.
Rather than attempt to recreate landscapes on canvas, Gaillard prefers to treat the landscapes themselves as a canvas. “I’m always trying to confront myself to the landscape,” he said.
One of the films presented by Gaillard during his discussion at the Wexner Center depicts several scenes in Cancun, Mexico. Shots of Mayan ruins are preceded by a clip of two American youths partaking in the time-honored tradition of seeing who can chug a bottle of tequila the quickest. The film also includes a scene of crumbling ruins set to a background of a high-rise hotel, fashioned out of concrete to resemble a Mayan pyramid. The scene is capped with a genuine imported Los Angeles gang member, dressed completely in red, doing a traditional Bloods dance. This sort of juxtaposition typifies much of Gaillard’s work.
“For most people, excluding spring-breakers, Cancun is a horrible place, but for me it’s perfect,” Gaillard said.
In several of Gaillard’s other short films, picturesque landscapes are shown then obscured by a thick smoke which bellows from trees within the scene, and then they reemerge as the smoke dissipates. The smoke is instantly recognizable to former rebellious teens as coming from stolen fire extinguishers.
Although his work frequently shows monuments and ruins in ways which expose or create contradiction, there isn’t the sense of melancholy which one might expect.
“I don’t want to be nostalgic. I’m just interested in ruins,” he said.
Another common appearance in Gaillard’s work is the depiction of large modernist housing complexes and their destruction. Once a symbol of growth and development for European nations and cities, these behemoths now stand as decaying symbols of a failed architectural experiment. For Gaillard they represent a great artistic opportunity. His pictures and films frequently depict interesting contradictions in the shadows of large, nondescript tenements.
Even as the housing complexes are demolished and replaced Gaillard finds an opportunity for artistic expression. Much of his work includes images and video of spectacular demolitions. Though visually intriguing, Gaillard finds deeper meaning in light of the famed French revolutionary spirit. Fearful for the loss of that great revolutionary practice, destroying government buildings, Gaillard questions the implications of state-sponsored demolitions.
“Where’s the space for revolution if they [the government] build and destroy everything?” he said.
“Disquieting Landscapes,” a selection of Cyprien Gaillard’s work, will be on exhibit at the Wexner Center until April 11. The exhibition features short films and photographs. Admission is free to university students.