Jean Claude Wouters | Portraits & Buddhas
Opening Reception: November 11, 2010 | 6 – 9pm
November 11 – December 17, 2010 | Monday – Friday, 11 – 6pm
NOHO Modern is pleased to present Portraits and Buddhas by Jean Claude Wouters. This exhibition, Wouters' first solo exhibition in North America, features works whose high level of craftsmanship recall Flemish masters, but refuse to be defined as either photography, drawing, or painting. Wouters now lives and works in Los Angeles, but has lived extensively in Belgium, France, and Japan. This exhibition continues NOHO Modern dedication in exhibiting important artists that have been previously or historically under-represented.
In his Buddha series, Wouters photographs images of Buddhas from books that he has painted over, sometimes painting over the resulting photograph, and re-photographing his process. Through this mark-making, whether it be marring the subject matter or expounding upon it, Wouters recalls the artistic tradition of defacing works—à la Rauschenberg's erasing of De Kooning's drawing, Dali's doodling on Goya's Caprichos, and the Chapman Brothers' subsequent defacing of Dali prints. But Wouters does it without irony, humor, or self-satisfied art-historical referencing.
In his Portrait series, Wouters reinvigorates the genre of Portrait painting and photography. Although the inception of his process retains traditional underpinnings—he photographs a sitter in a traditional studio setting--by re-photographing the photograph behind a sheet of thick glass, Wouters embarks upon new ground: the final prints' subsequent cloudiness is a result of the reflected space and sky in the glass. At first glance, the title of the series seems almost to be a misnomer, as the indistinct faces that swim to the surface seem to be faintly-remembered dreams. But what emerges is a portrait of the process; a work that simultaneous embodies the subject, the artist's space and studio, and the ever-present disparity between photograph and the sitter. But beyond the hazy lens, a stark portrait of the essence of the sitter materializes.
Wouters' work draws inspiration from traditional Japanese Buddhistic Mandalas which, as an ornate visual springboard, helped believers reach a state of higher consciousness. However, with their very superficial beauty and materiality, also inhibited viewers from reaching true nirvana, so much so, that they were oftentimes destroyed after having been viewed. By obscuring the original images of the Buddha or the face, Wouters continues to balance this tenuous duality: his works are a repository of his artistic and metal processes without assuming the role of the proverbial golden calf. Moreover, by abstracting a reproduction of the original image that represents an abstract concept, Wouters returns the image back to its more authentic self; where the process of replication not only mirrors the endless appropriation of images, but also their dissemination and inspiration.
Jean Claude Wouters was born in Belgium and currently lives and works in Southern California. He has exhibited internationally in Tokyo, Kyoto, Paris and New York, and has had work featured in FIAC and Art Basel Miami Beach. His work has been reviewed by the New York Times, Esquire, The Japan Times and many other Asian publications.
NOHO Modern was founded in 2002 by Jeremy Petty with the purpose of promoting historical and contemporary art and design, while eschewing the traditional conceptual borders between them. Through museum-quality exhibitions of of such artists and designers as June Harwood, Zanini de Zanine, James Prestini, and Robert Hansen, NOHO Modern aims to bring under-represented but well-respected artists and designers to Southern California that refuse to fit into pre-fabricated categories.