As one of the many artists currently engaged in appropriations of and tributes to their predecessors, Oscar Tuazon’s approach is one of homage. The Los Angeles-based artist’s sculptural interventions arise via approximations of, and imagined conversations with, artists whose creative output have transformed aesthetic boundaries. Like his heroes, from Gordon Matta-Clark to wilderness survivalists, Tuazon’s non-conformist approach to artistic practice plays at the juncture of architecture, sculpture and performance. For his solo exhibition ‘dépendance’, he employed architecture as both model and catalyst for an ‘outlaw’ ethos.
The show comprised a single work, dépendance (2012), an architectural replica of the gallery’s façade and entrance. Within a few steps of walking into the space, visitors again encountered the exterior structure of the gallery – a white wooden frame, door and seven glass windows – creating a sense of déjà vu. A facsimile in both scale and materials, complete with the gallery’s inconspicuous signage, the façade contrasted with the simple metal support structure surrounding it, recalling Tuazon’s composite assemblies of building materials. Behind it, the gallery space lay open and empty, which subsequently directed one’s attention back to the freestanding structure’s bewildering presence and likeness to the original.
Tuazon’s work can ostensibly be described as a series of encounters, or junctures, between independent parts working in a balanced yet tense interplay. Take his 2009 exhibition at Centre international d’art et du paysage in France, entitled ‘Plie-le jusqu’à ce qu’il casse’ (Bend it Until it Breaks), which involved a prodigious wooden frame built with pulleys that held horizontal concrete beams in suspension; or his large-scale wooden structure Untitled (2010), which weaved through the architecture of Kunsthalle Bern in Switzerland. With dépendance, Tuazon did not wholly abandon his assault against the existing site, but the force of his gesture was situated in the dislocation and disorientation one experienced when confronted with the uncanny reproduction. This disquieting consequence evoked the performative qualities of Tuazon’s work, which often remained ancillary to his construction and materials.
In the exhibition’s accompanying text, Tuazon called dépendance ‘a cover version’ of Glen Seator’s Approach (1966–67) – a replica of the façade of San Francisco’s Capp Street Project and a section of the abutting pavement, which Seator installed inside the non-profit art space. Along with Seator’s intervention, Tuazon’s text also cites Waylon Jennings’s breakthrough album of cover songs. The comparisons bring Tuazon to consider the idea of the cover across music and artistic practice; his reference to both artist and singer extends from a personal logic by which he defines them both as mavericks in their respective fields. By operating outside of, or insistently defying, prescribed conventions, Seator and Jennings fall within Tuazon’s category of the ‘outlaw’. His penchant for an outlaw attitude underscores the renegade attributes in his own work, which tends to be interpreted as abrasive, violent, defiant or confrontational. But his provocations are more willingly a matter of transcending artistic boundaries and codes.
Returning to the topic of dependence, a word which echoed throughout the exhibition, the real potential of the cover version as expressed in Tuazon’s work is the encounter generated by the meeting of both original and copy. The spatial and temporal distance between the two doesn’t produce an antagonistic relationship, but ensures a mutual need and support of each other. While Seator’s faithful reproductions addressed the process (and limits) of appropriation within architectural terms, Tuazon’s work balances a delicate appropriation against homage, implying a collective process and a gentler notion of dependence.