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Jean-marc Bustamante, Dead Calm

Paul Clarke has his patience tested at the Henry Moore Institute

Published on May 13th 2011.

Jean-marc Bustamante, Dead Calm

LET'S face it, modern art shows are usually infuriating – some pieces transcendent while others scream emperor’s new clothes.  The Jean-Marc Bustamante Dead Calm retrospective at the Henry Moore Institute manages to combine both.

The basic concept of this first UK solo exhibition of his work is sound – examining Bustamante’s merging of the usually mutually exclusive disciplines of photography and sculpture, and it works in part.

"You can see why people got so wound up when the Tate bought a pile of bricks and called it art."

The best bit is at the front door where twelve boxes containing photographs of cypress tress are laid out in seemingly random fashion.  But what makes it special is the cunning way some pictures peek out of the boxes, and others are purposely obscured.  It may sound a bit Late Review, but it really works.

It is a bit downhill from there though as the next room contains some concrete in a wooden box which left me cold, both in its execution and intent. Thankfully this is off set with four giant photographs of more cypress trees that really engage the senses.

DeadCalm2.jpgThe final room is another huge contrast. Ouverture I is the epitome of what Bustamante is trying for, with a gorgeous print of a banal urban landscape set on a low wooden tray which is fascinating. 

Sadly on a nearby wall is T. 25.79, which is basically a print of loads of bricks on an unfinished building site that is just awful on every level.  You can see why people got so wound up when the Tate bought a pile of bricks and called it art.

So we are in typical modernism land – one moment admiring greatness and the next throbbing with indignation. 

That’s what makes this show worth a visit as art should never sit in the middle, but allow you run a gamut of emotions which is Bustamante’s true gift.

Dead Calm is free and runs until 26 June.

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