Wernier Cuvelier at Galerie Nadja Vilenne

With this ambitious exhibition, Gallery Nadja Vilenne brings together six major bodies of work from the 1970s and ’80s by the Ghent-based Conceptual artist Werner Cuvelier. The show focuses on Cuvelier’s photography-based “Statistic Projects,” which often incorporate drawings and sketches that reveal the strict protocols he developed within his practice. Bruggen van Gent, 1981, documents every bridge in Ghent, without every revealing the titular structures; instead, Cuvelier instructed a photographer friend to capture the views from the middle of each bridge. The artist later juxtaposed the pictures in long vertically-oriented sequences arranged on tables or along the walls. The resulting compositions are abstract and formally compelling, obscuring their subject but effectively bringing the story of their making to the forefront.

The photographic collage Retrato de L.N, 1980, organizes small portraits of all 129 inhabitants of the Spanish village of Las Negras into a grid, a sort of periodic table of faces. Here, the viewer is confronted with a work that is at once scientific—journalistic, even—and utterly poetic and artistic. Cuvelier paid great attention to forms. He chose his colors carefully and filled the gaps in the grid (representing those citizens who didn’t wish to the be photographed) with glue patterns inspired by the paintings of Dan Van Severen. Although algorithmic in nature, Cuvelier’s work ultimately addresses the intangibilities of the human experience.

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