Michel Gondry: Deitch Projects

Article excerpt

Michel Gondry, trailing a well-deserved reputation as one of contemporary filmmaking's most innovative visual stylists, has made what must have seemed an entirely natural move from cinema to gallery. His whole professional trajectory, after all, has been built on a series of successful crossovers. First, the French-born former drummer and former art student parlayed a string of quirky animated videos for his own 1980s Parisian pop band into a career as an auteur of celebrated clips for the likes of the White Stripes, the Chemical Brothers, and Bjork. Then, after directing commercials for a range of corporate clients, Gondry struck up a partnership with maverick screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. The pairing has so far produced two films, including 2004's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which explored the same kinds of issues that have long fascinated contemporary artists--the ambiguities of perception, the indeterminacy of memory, the fragility of identity, the nuances of desire.

Given these bona fides, it was dispiriting to find Gondry's New York gallery debut, "The Science of Sleep: An Exhibition of Sculpture and Creepy Pathological Little Gifts," so haphazard and unpersuasive. Like that other well-known Bjork-related auteur who's also made gallery shows out of the stuff of his unconventional films, Gondry is an inveterate maximalist. Yet whereas the engine of Matthew Barney's baroque imagination runs fast on big theory, deep archetype, and queasily hi-tech extrusions, Gondry's chugs away with a sentimental, ramshackle can-doism that posits that anything can be made more interesting simply by making it dreamy. In Gondry's current work, this approach appears to be synonymous with a kind of soft-bodied, lo-fi knickknackery that may seem very outre in the glossy metier of the film and TV projects he usually inhabits but is, for anyone even vaguely familiar with visual art, hardly groundbreaking. …