David Kordansky Gallery is pleased to announce Grand Flâneur, an exhibition of new work by Harold Ancart. The artist’s first show with the gallery and his first solo show in Los Angeles, it will open on September 9 and remain on view through October 22, 2016. An opening reception will be held on Friday, September 9 from 6:00pm until 8:00pm.
Though Harold Ancart’s work almost always begins with the immediacy of the drawn mark, it takes a variety of final forms. Objects that can be viewed as paintings, sculptures, and immersive installations have defined his exhibitions, suggesting that the role of an artist is best described as that of the wanderer: a figure borne along by the freshness of his impressions and his ability to generate images possessed of visceral intensity, with each work pointing the way to the next. In Ancart’s case, this peripatetic movement also represents an astute amalgamation of European, South American, and North American art historical traditions.
Grand Flâneur consists of a single monumental work, the artist’s most ambitious to date: a site-specific mural, 14-feet tall and 37-feet wide, rendered with oil stick pigments on a concrete wall constructed in the gallery space specially for the exhibition. At once an imaginary travel sketch writ large, a painting at extreme scale, and a commanding sculpture, the work confronts the viewer with a vast image that dominates the visual field, and, like much of Ancart’s work, occupies a fluid terrain between abstraction and representation. Its extreme horizontal orientation, together with a high horizon line that separates its lower and upper sections, allow its imagery to be read as a fantastic maritime landscape whose dominant features are an expansive jet-black sea and a sliver of lurid sky that is both sublime and serene.
The work’s effect hinges not only upon the economy of its design, but also the texture and materiality of its pigments and the sheer sensory impact of its size. As such, it embodies the presence of a landscape rather than merely picturing one.
Bringing together issues of landscape, scale, and abstraction in this way also links Ancart’s work with a diverse range of art historical precedents: the majestic vistas conjured by Hudson River School landscape painters in the 19th century, the optical experimentation of continental Impressionists that followed shortly thereafter, and the enveloping non-objective fields that would define American abstract painting in the postwar period. Oil-heavy surfaces and jagged mark-making techniques, for example, recall the gestures of Clyfford Still’s major canvases, as does Ancart’s ability to channel the action of dispersion, such as clouds shifting or water flowing, within the static frame of the picture plane.
And yet Grand Flâneur is also a reminder that drawing and painting need not take place solely on standalone supports designed to hang on the walls of idealized viewing spaces like galleries and museums. Inspired by the example of Mexican muralism (Ancart produced a previous wall-based work as an outdoor installation at Fundación Casa Wabi in the state of Oaxaca) and the important role murals have played in the development of public art in postwar Los Angeles, Ancart engages with the history of image-making as a social phenomenon. He poses questions about what it means not only to create pictures of landscapes, but to create works that inhabit, alter, and inform the landscapes in which they appear. Though the image depicted on the wall is visionary in tenor and indicative of a romantic, highly personal sensibility, walls themselves are decidedly communal objects: sculptural lines “drawn” in space to enclose shelters and define the shapes and contours of cities, home, and lives, they are by their very nature shared experiences.
From this perspective, the title of the exhibition takes on especially poetic significance. If the flâneur is one who moves idly through an urban context, reveling in the seductive nature of what he or she encounters and generating aesthetic pleasure with the simple act of looking, the work at the center of Grand Flâneur posits that artists and viewers alike constitute a special breed of tourist, passing by sites of interest on a larger journey that exceeds the delimited area of any one moment, space, or artwork. Indeed, Ancart is simultaneously presenting a solo exhibition at the Menil Collection in Houston that features a series of oil stick drawings produced from the back of his car as he drove across the United States in 2014. Grand Flâneur inverts this premise, granting its viewers the chance to experience firsthand the many dimensions of landscape, including its idealized, actual, artistic, and cultural forms.
Harold Ancart (b. 1980, Brussels) is currently the subject of a two-person exhibition, with Michel François, at Fundación Casa Wabi, Puerto Escondido, Mexico; and a solo show, There is no there there, at the Menil Collection, Houston. Recent group exhibitions include Myth/History II: Shanghai Galaxy, Yuz Museum, Shanghai (2015); Europe, Europe, Arnstrup Fearnley Museum, Oslo (2014); The Great Acceleration, Taipei Biennial, Taiwan (2014); Champs Elysées, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2013); I knOw yoU, IMMA at NCH, Dublin (2013); Un-Scene II, Wiels, Brussels (2012); and Melanchotopia, Witte de With, Rotterdam (2011). Ancart lives and works in New York.