Trained as a painter, the artistic practice of Karina Peisajovich has been strongly influenced not only by art history, but by her early experience in underground theater, where she worked in the late 80s and early 90s as a stage and costume designer. Her artwork is deeply influenced by a history of Modernist experiments with abstraction and perception, while concurrently appropriating physical and conceptual aspects from theater: its technical supports, its direct engagement with the physical exhibition space, and the active positioning the viewer-participant directly within the work. In her recent projects she has moved from producing complex installations involving abstract forms painted from the gallery walls onto the floors, combined with geometric forms projected in light, toward a more reduced set of elements; small light machines projecting colored light, placed within completely darkened spaces.
For her untitled installation at the Museo Experimental El Eco, Peisajovich significantly darkened the large gallery of the museum, by covering the main window and painting the walls in the same dark gray of the ceiling. Taking advantage of the significant height of this long rectangular room, the artist projected onto the smooth surface of the ceiling. Five powerful theater lights were positioned on the floor around the room. Attached to each floodlight was a small motor that moved a metal rod, which in turn slowly rotated a circular glass plate above the lights. Each plate contained a transparent color wheel. As they moved, the illumination projected circles of colored light onto the ceiling, colors that gradually changed as each glass moved. These five lighting contraptions ranged in size and their projections overlapped one another, creating a composition of forms. Each motor was programmed at a slightly different speed, so that the colors of the circles were perpetually out of sync, thereby producing a nearly endless range of color combinations in the room, as colors overlapped at diverse intervals.
The motorized disks of this piece recalled those used by Marcel Duchamp in works such as Disk Bearing Spirals (1923), but without the three-dimensional effect produced by the French artist. It was Duchamp who warned against the pleasures of the eye, the comfort it provides and its tendency to produce complacency. His challenges to the eye, his need to activate it in aggressive ways, is a desire shared by Peisajovich. She recognizes these challenges within her contemporary context, where the eye is easily coerced by consumer imagery. Her structuring of this artwork additionally recalled the color exercises developed by the professors of the Bauhaus, specifically the teachings of Josef Albers. The artist has addressed this reference and the use of the studies of Albers in her work, identifying her particular interest in his demonstrations of how colors deceive; how they are not stable or contained entities, but perpetually contingent, producing after-image colors, as a result of biological and psychic effects. Mathias Goeritz also shared this interest in Albers and often went back to his teachings and used them in his own influential pedagogy.
The installation by Peisajovich structured a magical environment and created a site for a heightened perceptual experience. Evoking a cave or planetarium, it encouraged visitors to lie on the floor in the darkness and gaze upward at the play of colored light. The particularly slow movement of the transitions of the colors drew the viewer in, by significantly slowing vision. While experiencing this work one became acutely conscious of one ́s individual eye as a perceiving entity, but also gained an increased awareness of the imagination, as it sought to connect these abstractions to an image or comfortable referent. While these interlocking circles recalled similar configurations in paintings from the 1950s and 1960s involved with geometric abstraction, they were equally recognizable as simply the product of the mechanics involved in their production; the circular lens of the theater light, the shape of the color wheel.
Color is defined as the difference between light and darkness and it is this differentiation that creates the images we perceive in the world. Through their transience, color and light thus reveal the fragility of images and the vulnerability of vision in general. This installation, through its isolation of the elements of color, light, darkness and their interrelation, looked to address this knowledge. It engaged viewers with a simulated pre-image state, a space in which they might recognize their own processes of visual construction. The “image” it articulated was that of the act of seeing itself.
Tobias Ostrander, Curator
Karina Peisajovich (born, 1966) lives and works in Buenos Aires. Her recent exhibitions include: Karina Peisajovich: Teorías, Centro Cultural Recoleta, Buenos Aires (2010); 7ma Bienal del Mercosur, Grito y Escucha, Porto Alegre, Brazil (2009); Beloved Structure: the Argentine Legacy, Alejandra Von Hartz Gallery, Miami; Objetos de mi Pasión, Colección Tedesco, CC Borges, Buenos Aires (2009); Roundabout, Contemporary Exhibition Space, Berlin, Alemania (2008);; Karina Peisajovich: Influyentes e influidos, Galería Braga Menéndez Arte Contemporáneo, Buenos Aires (2008).