Wordplay is the primary focus in Oscar Tuazon’s current exhibition at Chantal Crousel Gallery in Paris this month, pursuing a constantly folding, nebulous interpretation of concepts around reading, space, text and composition. The show, Shelters, takes its title from the angular structures erected throughout the gallery, accompanied by wall-hangings and utilitarian sculptural works that offer multiple points of engagement and interaction with the viewer.
Throughout the show, Tuazon’s Shelters play on the language of minimalism, turned back towards a more explicit, immediate use. Each serves as a “space for words, a place to read,” offering ample light and a snug respite from exterior forces, while creating uniquely illusory effects thanks to transparent or reflective glass. The formal politics of Tuazon’s work here seem primarily interested in the grammar of their surroundings, of literally writing one’s presence into the landscape. As brief inflections of presence on the gallery (or, as one exhibition image implies, outdoors), they allow a sudden break with other spatial logics, in favor of a place to pause, reflect, or delve deeper into a chosen reading material, echoed by his benches in the space, emblazoned with their own written texts for the viewer to peruse.
Social engagement seems to be the target of these pieces, addressing public areas as a site for a potential folding of perspective inwards. It’s an interesting concept, considering the already solipsistic experience of smart phones and other ubiquitous mobile devices turning public users inwards towards their own personal priorities already. Yet Tuazon’s interest, which points at unimpeded use-values, seems to ignore these points, and, rather than encourage a more outward focus, seeks to remake social spheres in favor of more accommodating moments of solitude. If the modern pace of text production and proliferation, particularly online, offers benefits for a society’s literacy and political engagement, then Tuazon’s practice offers a fitting physical complement.
Tuazon’s pieces here engage the act of reading, of textual construction, in its juncture between interiority and exteriority, underscoring not only the mental, intellectual act of the reading experience, but also a plain interest in the material conditions for reading as both a material interface. Here, both physical space, the texts themselves, and the bodily position of the viewer work themselves through a series of variations on his theme, and creating a loosely flowing text of its own in the scope of the exhibition, realized as a pragmatic set of physical conditions.
Shelters is on view through April 16th.
— D. Creahan
Exhibition Site [Chantal Crousel]