[April 23 2015]
There is an often-quoted wisdom by Ed Ruscha that says a good piece of art should elicit the response: ‘Huh? Wow!’, as opposed to the more frequent variant: ‘Wow! Huh?’ Ruscha’s comment, though somewhat generalised, encroaches on an interesting tension between ones first impressions of an artwork and the afterthoughts that follow. This consideration of surface and content is evoked in Valentina Liernur’s recent exhibition ahhhhhhh at Campoli Presti in Paris. Following last years ahhh…ahh.. at the gallery’s London space (a series of denim-paintings, with the title notably snapped from an Argentinian commercial for skinny jeans), Liernur has composed canvasses out of a twill-woven fabric used mainly for utilitarian wear. Like the torn, acid-washed denim-pieces in ahhh…ahh.., the gabardine surfaces here are ripped open and bleached, rashly tacked up with safety pins, and styled into what could possibly be described as the lovechild between suburban dandyism and Arte Informel. At that, the authoritanism of the material — used for uniforms and military purposes — is contradicted through a deliberate association to not only these soft painterly gestures, and a history of abstract art, but also to deliberate acts of dishevelment in fashion. Punk is evoked as a movement, destruction is stylised and automation — at least as an artistic process — is rationalised. There is no beginning nor an end — and intentionally so.
Though the exhibition appears as an afterthought to its preceding body of work, it is nevertheless one that questions its own validity, its own material history and the temporality of impressions within. Liernur seems to recognise the impossibility of clear-cut progression when it comes to artistic practice or its consequent reflections, and in this, inadvertently offers a revision to Ruscha’s adage: a piece of art should, perhaps, elicit nothing but an ahhhhhhh, a sensual sigh of recognition, questioning, or as in the original jeans commercial, simple relief. Ahhhhhhh is on display until 23rd of May at Campoli Presti, 6 rue de Braque, 75003 Paris.
Text and photo Sabrina Tarasoff