Los Angeles

Kasper Bosmans: Motif (Oil and Silver) at Marc Foxx

Up-and-coming Belgian artist Kasper Bosmans continues his interest in symbology with Motif (Oil and Silver) at Marc Foxx. His paintings and sculptures investigate rostral columns, whales, Roman shipping vessels, coinage, and Coco Chanel, among other seemingly unconnected imagery. About a dozen works, tastefully arranged, point to linkages both literal and figurative.

Kasper Bosmans. Coco, Chain (She loves Pink, Juicy Details, Guava Jelly, Starlet Pink, High Maintenance, Little Princess), 2016; gouache, silver tip pen, poplar panel; 61 x 70 x 1 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Marc Foxx Gallery.

Kasper Bosmans. Coco, Chain (She Loves Pink, Juicy Details, Guava Jelly, Starlet Pink, High Maintenance, Little Princess), 2016; gouache, silver tip pen, poplar panel; 61 x 70 x 1 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Marc Foxx Gallery.

The first series of paintings, Coco, Chain (She Loves Pink, Juicy Details, Guava Jelly, Starlet Pink, High Maintenance, Little Princess) (2016), has a mouthful of a title that belies its easy consumption. The six pink gouache color swatches, arranged two high, are framed by a gray border and connected by a meticulously painted chain on the bottom three paintings. A physical chain appears on the other side of the gallery in Columna Rostrata (2016). Dangling from a chain, the small, blue-tinted Plexiglas vitrine contains a single page cut out of an art-history textbook that depicts a rostral column. The columns were used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to commemorate naval victories.

Images of warships in Legend: Motif (Oil and Silver) (2016), a series of five paintings arranged linearly, serve as a kind of key for deciphering the rest of the work in the gallery. In the illustrative paintings, Bosmans pairs warships with chains, battering rams, Coco Chanel logos, a whale’s skull, and a couple of coins. Chanel logos and coins resurface again in the center of the gallery in the piece Juno Sospita and Coco (Silver Denarius) (2016). The blue tabletop display case holds a yellow sweater with Chanel Paris logos sewn in and a single Roman coin placed on top.

Kasper Bosmans. Columna Rostrata, 2016; 1914 print, wood plexiglass, chain; 48 x 5 x 2 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Marc Foxx Gallery.

Kasper Bosmans. Columna Rostrata, 2016; 1914 print, wood, plexiglass, chain; 48 x 5 x 2 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Marc Foxx Gallery.

Bosmans ties together the various representations of Roman ships with hints inside each adjacent image. There’s a loose logic to the progression. Without explicitly describing it, Bosmans allows the viewer to find the through line between his objects and paintings in the form of a coy show-and-tell.

In Rostrum/Bulbous Bow (Suspended, Flower Girl, and Silver) (2016), Bosmans swerves into abstract painting and sculpture. The oblong silver-leafed birch structure sits idly in the corner of the space like an elephant in the room. A large painted rock is its counterweight. Rostrum/Bulbous Bow (Grey) (2016), a gray gradient mural on the wall, echoes the bulging sculpture. These two works do not engage in the pictographic style employed by the other ten works in the show. Instead, Bosmans relies on the title to create a connection: “Rostrum” is defined as both a platform with which to receive an award, give a speech, and play music, and as a beak-like projection, such as the snout of a whale.

Kasper Bosmans. Motif (Oil and Silver), 2016; installation view, Marc Foxx, Los Angeles, 2016. Courtesy of the Artist and Marc Foxx Gallery.

Kasper Bosmans. Motif (Oil and Silver), 2016; installation view, Marc Foxx, Los Angeles, 2016. Courtesy of the Artist and Marc Foxx Gallery.

The links in Bosmans’ installation imply a relationship between the history of fashion and the history of war and commerce. His work suggests that one’s embrace of a designer brand has echoes in past proclamations of victory in war. But by relying on the titles of his work to form those connections, his implications remain just that: suggestions. Bosmans’ approach to his content echoes Barthes’ statement in The Death of the Author: “We know now that a text is not a line of words releasing a single ‘theological’ meaning (the ‘message’ of the Author God) but a multidimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture.” In this way, Bosmans both empowers and depends on the viewer to make unique, nonlinear connections when experiencing his work.

Kasper Bosmans. Juno Sospita and Coco (Silver Denarius), 2016 (detail); sweater with medallions, Chanel, silver denarius coin dedicated to L. Roscius Fabatus 59 BC, custom box with glass and metal stand, paint (Boudoir Blue); 36 x 34 x 27 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Marc Foxx Gallery.

Kasper Bosmans. Juno Sospita and Coco (Silver Denarius), 2016 (detail); sweater with medallions, Chanel, silver denarius coin dedicated to L. Roscius Fabatus 59 BC, custom box with glass and metal stand, paint (Boudoir Blue); 36 x 34 x 27 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Marc Foxx Gallery.

Barthes’ theories can also be applied to the wearers of Hermes or Coco Chanel. They aren’t necessarily channeling the Greek and Roman history of naval conquest and commerce every time they put on their sweater, but would likely be wearing these clothes anew in the way that, as Barthes explains, a reader “writes” a text anew with each successive encounter. Someone wearing a “BOYCOTT BEYONCÉ” T-shirt, for example, isn’t wearing it to support the police unions’ boycott of her concerts.

Relying on Barthes is, however, a double-edged sword. While it frees the work of art from interpretive tyranny, the philosophy can also be used as a way to excuse authorial responsibility through an evasion of specificity. Once each work of Bosmans is viewed separately through its individual sale, how does a viewer understand these intertwined relationships between fashion and war? In this way, those very signs and trends of commerce that Bosmans investigates actually further sublimate the work into another such symbol, a capitulation to the forces of commerce.

Kasper Bosmans: Motif (Oil and Silver) is on view at Marc Foxx in Los Angeles through May 7, 2016.

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