French street artist Rero will tell you that his work is about illusion. I don’t doubt his sincerity when he says that, but I think it’s more about confrontation. When you walk into “Image Not Available”, Rero’s solo show at Fabien Castanier Gallery, the first piece you encounter is a block of plaster with the words “blank page” carved out. On the gallery floor beneath it, is a small pile of plaster detritus, representing the missing space where the words emerge. The thing is though, that the words aren’t really there. They’ve been struck through, negated. Every word in every Rero piece has been crossed out, sort of. The viewer is being confronted with the task of eliminating the words from the art. You find that you can’t do it. Once the eye sends the visual message to the brain, the brain gets to work defining the word, and the nullifying line, try as it might, does not erase it from memory. So every piece becomes this internal battle between what you see, and how to see it.
There’s a wall with a half-dozen vintage typewriters mounted on it. Each one has long spools of paper tumbling out of it. The sheets are dense with Rero’s ubiquitous Verdana and line strikes. At one point, it appears to have been one giant piece of paper, but now it’s been cut into strips so that the words are incoherent, meaningless, thus rendering the strike through redundant. I was instantly reminded of Jack Kerouac, but Rero says the piece is a nod to Guy Debord, the Marxist theorist and rabble rouser.
I always cringe when I see books torn apart for the sake of art. I find it cannibalistic. But there is something profound about Rero’s destroyed copy of the 1955 version of the California Constitution fossilized in resin and stamped THE SYSTEM HAS FAILED. It’s a pretty bold piece for a French artist to have in his first U.S. solo show, confrontational even.
For all the power these works wield, there is a muted beauty inherent in every one. Whether that pulchritude is derived from the line or not, I imagine is the question Rero is confronting us with. You must see the work in person, as photographs provide too much separation. Much like the word works of Ed Ruscha and Barbara Kruger, perspective and scale are crucial to get to the emotional underbelly of the art. Rero is an artist you have to reckon with.“Image Not Available” Rero Fabien Castanier Gallery September 8 – October 7 12196 Ventura Blvd
Studio City CA, 91604 T: 818 748 6014 Sunday – Monday: 11am – 5pm
Tuesday – Saturday: 11am – 7pm
Opening Reception | Saturday, September 8th, 7-10pm email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Text and photos by Keith Ross Dugas