THOMAS EVANS | DATE 6/8/2011
Releasing this week is one of the Fall catalogue’s more intriguingly designed monographs: the first overview of the Israeli artist Absalon. Housed in plain white paper-over-board covers, it is comprised of two bound sections of differing heights, the back of which is glued to the interior rear card cover, in a spin on the ‘monograph as dossier’ format. Absalon built a considerable ouevre during his sadly brief life (he died in 1993 at the age of 28), and this austerely designed volume effectively constitutes an Absalon catalogue raisonné.
Absalon’s best known works, the Cellules, rewrite Cezanne’s “treat nature as the cylinder, the sphere and the cone” to read “treat architecture as the cell, the bunker and the turret.” Not that the Cellules are straightforwardly architecture: they equally evoke Minimalist sculpture, Matt Mullican’s maquettes, Kurt Schwitters’ Merzbauen and the Concrete sculptures of George Vantongerloo. But the model that the Cellules most overtly evoke is the monastic cell:
The Cellules were fabricated in wood, cardboard and plaster, and painted entirely white; their average proportions are roughly those of a caravan, and the catalogue informs us that there is always an area in which one can stand up. Their interiors are fitted--fitted rather than furnished--with unobtrusive minimal representations of desks, seats, beds, etc.
How would one inhabit such a space? Fascinatingly, Absalon once characterized them as “machines for conditioning my movements,” suggesting that their spatial restrictiveness might function more as a guide for moving through them than as an area to inhabit. Videos exist in which he is seen trying out positions as if dancing off the environment's strictures. But the Cellules are ultimately intended for a kind of intensive dwelling or encounter, merging an isolationist individualism with nomadic portability. It's in their monastic character that these severe but curiously poetical dwelling units diverge from the mobile environments of Andrea Zittel: they are conceived with an ostensibly apolitical aspiration, while sharing something of Zittel's wonderful utopian fervor.
WALTHER KöNIG, KöLN
Hbk, 9 x 12 in. / 352 pgs / illustrated throughout.