Luca Buvoli
Wherever You Are Not
John Weber Gallery through May 24

by Stephen Pusey

It is appropriate that John Weber's last show in his SoHo space (before he reopens in Chelsea later this summer) should have as its central themes, disassembly and reconstitution. Wherever You Are Not, a solo exhibition of sculptures, books, and film, by Luca Buvoli, is the twelfth episode in a continuing series of comic book narratives that the artist started in 1992.

Wherever You Are Not, 1996, is a beautifully hand-drawn animated 16mm silent film, Chandleresque by device, and charmingly tongue-in-cheek. Through the eyes of an amnesiac private investigator, 'A . . . .', We retrace the disadventures of the antithetical protagonist Not-A-Superhero, and his encounters with the archetypal characters of Buvoli's creation, Dissector, Dr. Logos, Patternman, The Lord Of Guilt, and Meta-phora. Not-A- Superhero's fate is a continuing disappearance and reassemblence of his identity.

From perusing the artist's books of collage and drawings, we gather that Not-A- Superhero was once Supermark, who had lost his invulnerability in a devastating explosion, or revelation. Dissector, attempts to discover his true identity and dislocates him, throwing the parts into the river. He is betrayed and left "meaningless but nonetheless still alive", by Dr. Logos, who represents Cartesian logic, Western rationalism, and the absolute Word of God. Patternman (a reincarnation of the artist's childhood bedroom wallpaper) lures him with his uniforming power, and he "slips between the visible and invisible". As if all this were not enough, The Lord of Guilt seizes him with a grip of moral reprimands and he is forced to split himself into pieces, to escape.

It would be wrong to assume that this nebulous character ever really dies for as we are told Not-A-Superhero, "could not lose his existence because he never had one." He is aided in his reconstitution by Meta-phora, a lady of indeterminate hair colour, and the Isis to his Osiris. She has the miraculous gift of making "reassemblances between things, fragments of a large number of possible orders". His resurrection is always made possible through her mediation, he is healed through her feminine salve of imagination. Not-A-Superhero is neither hero nor antihero, for he exists only in the absence of his existence rather, he is an inversion of the archetypal superhero.

Buvoli's sculptures are frail, spindly wires, partly sheathed with a colored or clear insulation, that draw startling shapes in space as they spurt across a wall, or from floor to ceiling. If you look carefully, you won't find Not-A-Superhero, but his stand-in attributes cape, armour, boots, gloves all delicately made of candy wrappers and pieces of old clothing, following erratic trajectories, decreasing in size, till they appear to vanish. Around the gallery are his arch enemies. Dr. Logos, a robot scaffold of crossword puzzles, strides across an askew Renaissance perspective grid which looks barely sufficient to support the weight of his learned paces. The Lord of Guilt, like a black-robed Jesuit, whirls around in a fury of accusations, hurling fire, damnation, and thorned hearts, from atop his mountain of righteousness. Patternman is a quilted overlay of structures across one wall, that seems to simultaneously contract and expand, as if it is undergoing a process of replication.

The most astonishing sculpture in this show is the title work Wherever You Are Not. Made out of wire, plexiglass and fabric, it describes a screen that is shot through with projector rays, so that the title falls in a diaphanous cascade of lettering in the space beyond it. The screen does not serve as a reflector here it is the threshold to another zone in which the words become scrambled and absorbed by their shadows. Indeed, the use of the shadow is so purposeful in Buvoli's work. His objects are ephemeral solids suspended in space, that may metamorphize in an instant, yet the shadows they cast are a testimony of their solidity, the vestiges of their existence.

In developing a central character from his absence, and assembling his identity from just the traces of his existence, Luca Buvoli creates a paradox that touches upon concerns fundamental to the creative process as well as to contemporary society. Disembodiment is a constant subject of contemporary discourse as minds project themselves through computers into networked space "You will perish in your own projection" threatens Dr. Logos. The dilemma of contemporary thought is the inability to distinguish clear polarities, such as good or evil, but to consider instead, how they are qualified, and made equivalent, by all the factors in between. The artist is compelled to externalize the inexpressible so that it can be recognized or made fact as objects which may eventually form a whole so the artist is always the sum total of this fragmented "Other". The process is, of course, never completed but always, "to be continued . . ."

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