Art in America, July 1993, Vol. 81, N° 7, pp. 111-112
by Wade Saunders & Anne Rochette —
While many photographers want us to look at a particular thing observed from a particular place at a particular moment, Ariane Lopez-Huici has undermined that traditional photographic trinity. She works in defined series and often shoots the same subject from multiple angles; she favors tightly controlled groupings over single images. Parts interest her more than wholes, and she has become masterful at isolating and profoundly recontextualizing details. Lopez- Huici makes us see her subjects as existing in time, but outside any particular instant: in a series from 1986 she juxtaposes details of erotic Indian sculptures with shots of contemporary Indian women at work. Present and past become inseparable and even interchangeable, subverting our sense of historical time.
For her first one-person show in Paris, Lopez-Huici chose to exhibit “In Abstracto,” a group of photographs from 1989, to which she added one untitled image belonging to a quite different series done in 1992. The considered placement of the 15 pictures—all but two of them square in format, measuring from 10 to 34 inches on a side—made them read as a single work. The origin of “In Abstracto” is a Florentine wrought-iron chair constructed of forged bars, each culminating in a sphere, filled out with intricately woven bands. It quickly becomes obvious that this piece of garden furniture, which we never are shown in its entirety, is the starting point of Lopez-Huici’s regard but not her subject. The chair, thanks to its particular design, provides her with a fundamental formal vocabulary: points, lines and implied planes.
Often she focuses on the chair’s woven pattern and the shadow it projects on the gravelly ground; in these images we are spatially disoriented by the complexity of the several depicted layers. A sense of depth persists thanks to the difference in value and sharpness between the metal bars in the foreground and the softer tones beyond them. But the intricate grid, reminiscent of those employed by Franz Kline among others, flattens the space and imposes its abstraction on the whole image. The tension between abstraction and referentiality continues as our eye alternately registers tactile information about the graininess of the iron, the small bulges of welds, the texture of the paint, and revels in the deep blacks, sharp whites and velvety greys of Lopez-Huici’s prints. These are endowed with a sensuality more often found in painting than in photography.
The physical appeal of these photographs and their objectness is enhanced by Lopez-Huici’s decision to mount them in black wooden frames, but minus the usual glass. Directly accessible, the matte photographic paper fully offers its range of tonal values. The width of the framing stock is comparable to that of the black bands in the photographs, further complicating our perception of what we are being shown. The frame, though obviously of our world, is sucked into the photographic image, becoming another formal element in the composition. While the soft grids suggest unlimited expansion, the frames, abrupt and unavoidable, reiterate the fragmentation crucial to Lopez-Huici’s vision.
Although in the past Lopez- Huici honored equally the claims of what she photographed and those of her own eye, these works owe their considerable interest to her handling of the photographic medium. She appears to know and welcome this shift, for in the striking photograph she included from 1992, her subject, an agave, is indecipherable.