Magazine article Artforum International

Peter Campus: Locks Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

Peter Campus: Locks Gallery

Article excerpt

From afar, the six new works exhibited by Peter Campus in "the earth is nowhere" at Locks Gallery look more like diagrams than landscapes. Five of them are digital videos of sites in, on, or near Long Island Sound played in six-minute loops on their own flat-screen monitors. A formalist critic might see in the austere geometry of these views a contemporary equivalent to Manet's paintings of the Normandy coast, where masts and piers vie with flat areas of intense blue to submit the order of reality to the order of the picture plane.

To replicate Manet's conflation of figure and field, Campus creates maddeningly uneventful, startlingly abstracted scenes. The atmosphere is melancholic; human activity is practically nonexistent, the sound mere ambient noise. Set in a spare, spacious, dimly lit gallery, the sextet here formed a series in real space whose formal rigor matched that of each scene. In such a near-vacuum, the single manmade object that is the focal center of each piece assumes added pictorial weight. From left to right, these objects are: a tower, a bridge, a bridge support, a boat, a buoy, a pole.

But how does one reconcile this matter-of-fact list of nouns with the works' evocative titles, some of which are taken from literary sources such as the poems of Rainer Maria Rilke and Robert Louis Stevenson, others of which are of his own invention: so real a presence, bridge of clouds, predominance of our constructs, the land of the counterpane, the earth is nowhere, and alignment of the spheres (each 2007)? …

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