Opening, 8 x 32 feet, View of Installation at Soho20 Gallery NYC 1999

An Odyssey
Essay on the exhibition "Opening" by Ali AdibSoltani, June 1999

“Non art, anti-art, non-art art, and anti-art art are useless. If someone says his work is
art, it’s art.”
Donald Judd

Francine LeClercq has no such claim; and although she does not dispute the above
(she cannot), she declares: I’m first a painter. The conscious distinction she makes
between painting and art is telling enough but one which at once puts the work in
transit, between specificity and generic, modernity and formality, form and
expression, object-hood and theatre. In short the work has been put to risk, unable to
find an asylum in neither domains, its only salvation is to remain a minor.

But why (or how) then this incarnate Greenbergian allegiance in the specific assertion:
“I am first a painter”. Inspite of the evident schizo and binary oppositions, painting is
first and foremost the very medium by which she proposes to make these dichotomies
appear on the surface, a coup d’état whence the traditional relation of the work in the
presence of judgement is taken over by [the judgement in the sovereignty of work]. In
other words, a replacing of the primacy of interpretation to that of ecology. Which is
not to say that critical judgement is effaced, quite the contrary it is necessarily put to
work but in such a way that its boundaries, its set of values are constantly challenged,
blurred, diffused by other factors, other values, displacing it from a centralized capital
to a node in a meshwork. So while the work sets off on an ontological economy of
canvas, frame, brush and paint, the process permits singularities triggered by time,
space, planes, depth. The autocatalytic nature of this procedure resists catalysis, the
raw neutral field, its indifference, dislocates the core to periphery. The approaching
inquiry of the viewer, the gaze is freed from one fixed point to another, to the margin,
to space. To paraphrase Remy Zaugg: “ ...they exhibit the exhibition itself”. On the
other hand, the striking emptiness of the picture(s) once again alludes to Greenberg:
“Something of the harmony of the original square of white canvas must be found in
the finished painting”
But if all that is said should be true, if the work stands inspite of itself, shifted from
the core to the margin, from a centralized domain to a decentralized gateway, in the
process of re-territorialization, a map in the remaking, then precisely notions such as
borders and boundary are indefinite.The work in this regard in all its self referentiality
is never finished rather like an alloy it is more than the sum of its parts, that is , one
that displays global properties not possessed by its individual components.
In contradistinction to the facts, the reconstruction of evidence, the ontological
survey, the Eureka; the truth, the absolute value , the death prophecized by the
moderns, is not some conclusive episode as if poisoned by the very things that
molded it to its existence. It lies momentarily dead in an elongated perhaps
everlasting moment in the interval of a pulse. To breathe some life into this , to
resurrect the soul from some morbid archeological remains there must be found the
helical trace from Mondrian’s romantic vision of painting’s total absorption in life to
Shakespeare’s Juliette, for it is she who holds the key to this mysticism, who like
Orpheus must live the death, enter it in life, temporarily, in order to truly die to
release for all eternity the parfume of desire, the essence.
The title chosen for her show: “Opening”, therefore finds a curious resonance, more
like an announcement than a title, its almost ceremonious tone seems to invite more
than just a gathering as if a call to a ritualistic event to witness a sacrifice, the object
being the work itself, the paintings. But that is not all; the word offers other readings,
many venues of which we have spoken of only one.

Opposite the door, the entrance, spanning some sixty feet of wall surface, with the
entire wall as a weaving loom and a tapestry of paintings composed like the weft and
the warp of the canvas, there appears at first an ethnographic undertaking in search
of some “timeless origins of work”, a seemingly symbolic gesture, the color coming
from a different source illuminating a nebula of virgin canvases (at last).
It isn’t so! The dream of the painter, the blank canvas will have to wait. The picture
already made are not Ready Mades, first because they are hand stretched by the
artist, but that is unimportant, there is a more compelling fact at work, a shock, the
canvas is altogether discarded off, there remains only the paint (brush strokes)
stretched without its support. Hence these flatly literal hybrids of the essential
constituents of painting are constantly changing, exchanging their retrospective
relation like the chameleon, appearing, disappearing. And while either by sheer mass
or by the visual substitution of the canvas by the paint, there is an inherent vision of
the work of art as a monument, that which in the words of Heidegger, stand “but not
as the full presence of the one whose memory it bears”, the elemental instruments of
the work still persist, actively put to the test, experimented on, on the verge of
thresholds, traversed, kinetic, autocatalytic, in process... 

And finally, back on the loom as in Homere’s Odyssey that owes its entire
characterization to Penelope’s weaving, if it can be felt that we are in the presence of
a work, the thread is in her hands.

Opening, 1999 (Detail)