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Issue 130

Shane Krepakevich: Lightweight
by Joel Herman

Near the door of Shane Krepakevich’s exhibition Lightweight at Zalucky Contemporary hangs a very slight sculptural gesture. On the ceiling of the gallery is installed a small brass ball from which a long black cord extends downwards. At the end of the cord, nearly touching the floor, is a matching brass ball. The weight of the second ball holds the cord vertical. The set-up calls to mind a plumb line, an instrument used in building to ensure that constructions are vertical. The weight of the plumb bob, or plummet, used in a plumb line will slowly sway back and forth on its cord until it stops, indicating the centre of gravity, or a true vertical reference. A plumb line is multi-directional: it indicates the vertical axis by which buildings are constructed upwards, but similar tools were also used to measure the depths of the ocean. An instrument such as this marks a line that theoretically stretches to the earth’s centre of gravity (the nadir) and upwards infinitely into space (the zenith). It can be said, then, that one of the brass balls in Krepakevich’s construction, as far as Cartesian space is concerned, is directly above – or below – the other. The cord marks a vector aligned with gravity.

Slight as this seems, if we are to take it as an introductory mark, a key by which we can approach other works in the show, it establishes a vocabulary, both materially and theoretically, through which we can understand Krepakevich’s other installations in the gallery space. If what we are seeing is a system, such as a grammar, the materials and effect of gravity upon them in this first construction, establish a set of terms that are then elaborated upon in other works.

Through path, weight, variance in weight, rhythm, and proportion, lines suggest distance, area, a pause, a tangle, a length of time. A line might move straight from one point to another, wander as much as possible within the course of its path, or cross over itself within a tightly bound space.

The qualities of a line may be static, or they may vary. Whatever the extent of variation, the ends of a line bear the prospect of its form, suggesting further extension and elaboration.

The above lines were taken from a text written by Krepakevich titled Between Two Things. The text calls to mind the opening of Paul Klee’s Pedagogical Sketchbook (1925), where Klee describes “[a]n active line on a walk, moving freely, without goal. A walk for a walk’s sake. The mobility agent, is a point, shifting its position forward.” The artistic temperament from the time of Klee’s words is very much in evidence in Krepakevich’s exhibition, as the works deploy a vocabulary reminiscent of the Russian avant-garde of the 1920s. The compositions, as well as the collapsing of art and design (Krepakevich is also a designer who produces lighting fixtures and furniture), recall the efforts of Suprematism and Constructivism.

On the back wall of the gallery is installed another work, and here we see the same vocabulary of materials: brass and black cord. This time, however, the cord is suspended on a horizontal axis. A small brass fixture on the left protrudes slightly from the wall, and following the cord the eye stops at another brass fixture – this one larger and affixed to the wall at an oblique angle – where the cord stops. Hung as if on a clothesline is a single photograph, and the weight of this photograph pulls the cord into a gentle downward arch. In another installation, the cord emerges from two points on a bulkhead near the gallery’s ceiling, and suspends a brass tube horizontally. Over it hangs a piece of foil, as well as two brass hooks holding photographs. Seen one way, the installations act like display structures, or elaborate framing devices, for the photographic images. Krepakevich has also painted the walls where these works are installed, bracketing them and further suggesting a sort of mise-en-scène.

Cinema also populates Krepakevich’s installations in Lightweight. The photographs that inhabit these installations are stills from films such as In the Mood for Love, The Hustler and The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. All show interior spaces. Krepakevich introduces a remove from these images by photographing them off a computer screen in his studio, allowing the reflections of overhead lights to obscure parts of the images. This functions as a means of reinforcing the surface of the image, but also introduces one interior over another: the artist’s studio over that of the filmic representation.

The distinctions between art and design seem to be fluid in Krepakevich’s exhibition. This is not, however, an art exhibition about design. Instead, we see permeability between the two disciplines, but what one is saying to the other isn’t clear. What does it mean for brass and black cord to be used in a lamp, and for those same materials to be used in a (non-functional) art object, made by the same individual? Is what we are seeing a conflation of art and design of the order endorsed in the 1920s? As an art historical reference point, we visually understand the types of abstract geometries of this period. What is perhaps less legible is the political and social milieu from which these geometries arose – a time of war, turmoil and revolution. But of course today we have our own wars, and our own turmoil. How do these echoes from the 1920s reflect our present circumstances? If these echoes are part of a modernity that T.J. Clark describes as “a social order which has turned from the worship of ancestors and past authorities to the pursuit of a projected future,” perhaps they are a means of bypassing present circumstances altogether. If the art of the past looked to the future, it would seem that the art of the present is increasingly concerned with looking to the past. For Krepakevich this seems to be a matter of engaging with historical formal experiments. Gravity, weight, line, surface, angles. His works are not effusive statements, but delicate constructions that demand close scrutiny.

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