They rule — and drool

Clown cars riddle the work of leonardogillesfleur

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REVIEW It may sound like a toast at a wedding reception, but in order to have some measure of success in a collaborative project, there has to be an agreement between the parties involving respect, patience, and a dose of humor. The opposite would be when a couple filing for divorce cites "irreconcilable differences." For the collaborative art team leonardogillesfleur (Leonardo Giacomuzzo and Gilles-fleur Boutry), this phrase is also the clever title of their recent body of work currently on exhibit at Catharine Clark Gallery. The title plays on the struggle to create collaboratively and points to the sometimes fruitless results in pushing idealistic — or just plain romantic — notions. Paired with this work is "Action Series," a grouping of videotaped performances that touch on a similar vein.
The team graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2004 with MFAs from the New Genres Department. And it shows. Upon entering the gallery, you are confronted with a candy-apple red contraption: a push-me-pull-you Fiat, a car with two front ends seamlessly melded together to create a vehicle that can drive in two directions. It has two steering wheels, two front windows, no back seat, and a propensity for going in circles. The car isn't real, but the photos and schematic layouts are convincing enough. On close investigation, you can see that the car is actually an altered toy and leonardogillesfleur altered its photograph. This is something children would happily invent with crayons.
The pair have also included a recording of their own childlike car sounds, which emits vrrrroommms from a corner in the gallery, near the large-scale photo of the car, One Way or Another Puzzle. The vehicle sits waiting, parked on cobblestones, with the pair walking toward it, dressed in matching exercise gear — ready for action. But the action they get, as shown in one photo of the car after it’s made donuts ("Going in Circles"), is likely to prove frustrating. A real object the team made prior to this two-way Fiat is a bicycle with two handlebars and two seats. Unlike on a tandem cycle, a third wheel in the center has the riders facing away from each other and forever pedaling hard to try and go their direction instead of their partner's. These objects are visual puns and teeter on the edge of dadaism but fall more directly in the realm of conceptualism, the kind taught at a clown college — smart but also smart-ass.
In the next room video monitors on the walls and a large projection in a small theater loop the staged photolike performances of “Action Series.” Leonardogillesfleur are playing with the idea of holding a moment, markedly a special occasion, for as long as they can. Akin to a freeze-frame kiss at the end of a sappy movie, Myself as a Fountain highlights the team seconds before they go into a passionate lip-lock. They stand outside in some city park, amid the sound of cars and dogs barking — with heavy strings of drool pouring from their mouths. In all these videos — including one with the painfully cold setting of a blizzard, in which the couple hold a waving-at-the-camera pose — the title includes the length of time the subjects endured these attempts to hold on to the moment. In the loop in which a birthday cake's candles melt down while awaiting a puff of air from Boutry's mouth, friends wobble and work to hold their poses in the background. The time reads "8:42." Family and friends actually suffered it out as we do when enduring each other's company for too long. In these video pieces leonardogillesfleur capture the clear sense of futility in preserving a moment that didn’t happen the way it was imagined.

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