Skip to main content

Anna Neimark: Rude forms among us

Opening Reception: January 31, 2020 7-9pm

Exhibition Discussion with Anna Neimark and Hernan Diaz Alonso
February 3, at 7pm in the W.M. Keck Lecture Hall

SCI-Arc Gallery
January 31, 2020 at 10:00am
March 27, 2020 at 6:00pm

Presented By Anna Neimark, Design Faculty at SCI-Arc, Partner of First Office, Los Angeles, CA

In collaboration with Frédérique Gaillard, PhD, Curatorial Assistant, Head of the Photo Library, Natural History Museum, Toulouse, France and in partnership with Muséum d’histoire naturelle de Toulouse, The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts Alliance Française de Los Angeles.

Over a span of several decades, the 19th-century photographer Eugène Trutat documented the Dolmen de Vaour. The photographic emulsion deposited on the glass plates reveals the particu­lar beauty of this rude stone monument. Three stones form the perimeter of a nearly rectangular interior; they are called orthostates. One orthostate is long, presenting a sort-of wall, while the other two are chunky and can be read as truncated columns. All three are set in from the perimeter, allowing a rather peculiar capstone to appear to float above them. The capstone’s form has been broken by time, by giants, by chance, no one knows for sure. In one photograph, Trutat captures a man mim­ing the megalithic monument’s posture with one arm bent, the other extended, in a triumphant jump. We can only imag­ine the abrupt sound of the camera’s shutter, as the flash diffused a cloud of smoke into the air, producing a special effect for his momentary flight.

In collaboration with the Natural History Museum in Toulouse, the exhi­bition Rude forms among us brings a small selection of Trutat’s photographs into focus. Two of his negative prints depict iconic sides of the dolmen as landscape scenes. But it would be more accurate to think of these photographs as portraits. Perhaps Trutat, who served as Director of the Museum between 1890–1900, would have agreed: the dolmen was a portrait of our place in natural history. It therefore fit both cat­egories in parallel; it was at once nature and history. If we take it to be a natural landmark, the stone stack suits the Tarn landscape, blending with its background. But as a prehistoric monument, it stands as an object apart, pushing into the foreground. In labeling his pictures, Tru­tat referred to the dolmen by her proper name, Vaour, marking “en profil” and “en face” in the margins. If these documents are portraits, they present a somewhat familiar creature striking a recognizably melancholy pose.

In the gallery, beyond the photo­graphs, looms a large structure. Its cap­stone is similarly broken; its legs are also slightly set in. But this dolmen is blank and glossy. It is bigger, darker, greyer, quieter. If only for a moment, the fleeting present and the infinite past sync up. Here, without too many explanations, we happen upon a rude form that brings us to a time that is at some remove from our own. Its resolution is low, not high. Its joints are butted, not mitered. Its gaps are shimmed, not sculpted. It al­ludes to the architecture of forgotten narratives, eroded tectonics, and mud­dled grammar. The spaces formed with­in follow an ordinary plan. For now, the blocks are laid out as place holders, soon to be filled up with stuff: running water, electrical conduit, copper flash­ing, domestic appliances. Whether the megaliths enter our contemporary con­sciousness, or we move closer to the Stone Age, is not all that important. What is important is to feel a slight release from the present, to feel at ease and at home here and then.

archival photo of two men standing on stone structure
Eugène Trutat, Dolmen of Vaour, Tarn, France, circa 1880. Muséum d’histoire naturelle de Toulouse.