BY Michael Tarantino in Reviews | 01 SEP 96
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Issue 26

Mark Luyten

BY Michael Tarantino in Reviews | 01 SEP 96

How does one represent the experience of living in, working in or passing through a particular space? This preoccupation has been at the heart of Mark Luyten's work for the past decade. It is as evident in his series of Serre (Greenhouse) paintings from 1985 as it is in his eventual emptying of the frame and replacement of the image with words imprinted on surfaces ranging from canvas to glass. Referring to particular series of works as Paysages (Landscape) or Portraits, Luyten consistently questions our use of generic categories as well as the ability of these groupings to effectively represent a notion of space.

Over the course of the past two years, Luyten has been engaged in a remarkable project for the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Taking a different form at the change of the seasons every three months, this continuous piece is an investigation into the function and capacity of the museum, which, like the landscape and the portrait, also represents a way of organising space. Utilising areas as diverse as the entrance hall, administrative offices, cafeteria, an outside wall, a garden or a greenhouse, Luyten's discrete interventions mark the gulf between site and object, viewer and artist, what is represented and what is named.

His recent exhibition at the Galerie Micheline Szwacjer is both an extension and re-evaluation of the concerns outlined above. Here, Luyten has divided the gallery into zones, in which groups of works, utilising various media, combine in order to produce a kind of montage which can seem both fixed and flexible and is activated by the spectator.

Thus, we find such elements as a photo taken through the windscreen of a car, with only the hands of the driver visible; a stack of 88 sheets of paper with the names of Alpine lakes, along with their height above sea level, printed on each leaf; a set of lead rolls, which had been spread over the gallery floor in a previous exhibition, marked by the steps of the viewers; a television monitor seen through a pile of glass sheets, on which we see hand-held camera footage shot from a car passing through a landscape. In each case, we find an approximation of a spatial experience, a measuring of space that is tentative, indirect and subjective.

Many of these works also relate to painting and to its particular means of representation. Thus, an old painting of Luyten's, rolled up and tacked on the wall, locates the image as memory; as a relic of the past which does not necessarily have to be frozen in the history of the artist's biography. In other words, works themselves are subject to the demands and whims of time. A series of blank panels, again entitled Portraits, point to the potential image, the image whose strength lies in its very ambiguity. For Luyten, the importance is to refer to painting, to refer to particular kinds of space (geographical, pictorial, imaginary or linguistic) and to suggest possible points of view without ever actually realising - and ending - that approach.