Sean Horton (presents) is pleased to announce its inaugural exhibition of paintings and video by Belgian artist collective Leo Gabin. The first Texas exhibition of the Ghent-based group’s work will occupy the gallery’s new storefront space on West Jefferson Boulevard in Oak Cliff from February 22 to March 30, 2019.

Contemporary American culture fascinates Leo Gabin. They watch it from afar and respond like a DJ—sampling, mixing, and reinterpreting existing tropes to create something entirely new that nonetheless brings to light unexpected aspects of the original. And, like the rest of us, Leo Gabin gets much of their information about America from the internet, an endless repository of content, both meaningful and meaningless. They gravitate toward user-generated material, searching for images and footage that individuals make themselves and post to share lives, ideas, and ideals. In a sense, Leo Gabin search for content that reveals America revealing itself. When they give this back to us, re-orchestrated as paintings, videos, and sculptures, they present us with our own self-image, refracted through a particular collective sensibility.

The suite of Leo Gabin’s paintings in the exhibition, each 81 x 58 inches, includes silkscreened imagery sourced from online photos of American subjects—suburban houses, baseball caps, over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, pickup trucks, refrigerated beverages, and a woman apparently doing pushups in front of an American flag. Informally juxtaposed on various canvases, the photographic images share the picture plane with marks both gesturally painted and indexically imprinted, including the prints of sneaker treads. Harking back to the masters of transmuting found American images as art, Rauschenberg and Warhol, Leo Gabin’s paintings offer a dispassionate yet critical assessment of identity, authorship, and meaning.

A series of short videos Leo Gabin created between 2009 and 2013 demonstrate a similar modus operandi. In these, found footage, often of young people performing for their own cameras, is lightly massaged to tease out underlying or hidden connotations. In some, a gesture—such as obscuring one’s face by shoving a product up to the lens, or entering the frame to execute dance moves in front of a sofa—is repeated by a number of people. In others, similar scenes are set to new soundtracks to produce a third meaning. As in their paintings, Leo Gabin’s videos give us back ourselves, slightly altered or reorganized, a self-portrait through the eyes of others.

Lieven Deconinck, Gaëtan Begerem, and Robin De Vooght have worked together as Leo Gabin since 2000. They earned BFAs from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium, and have taught there as Leo Gabin. Their work has been included in many exhibitions in Europe and the United States, including solo shows at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center (2017); Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Ghent (2015); and Cultural Centre Bruges (2012). Leo Gabin is represented by Peres Projects in Berlin and by VNH Gallery in Paris.

Sean Horton (presents) is the new project of Sean Horton, who founded and directed galleries in New York and Berlin, beginning with Sunday L.E.S. on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 2006. Under several names, Horton Gallery realized more than 150 exhibitions, art-fair presentations, and offsite projects around the world. A native of North Texas, Horton plans to make the new Dallas gallery his center of operations while maintaining an office and organizing exhibitions at various spaces in New York. Horton Gallery has been a member of the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) since 2008 and has participated in NADA Miami, NADA New York, The Armory Show, Art Brussels, Independent Brussels, and the Untitled Art Fair, among others.

The exhibition of Leo Gabin’s work is organized by Joseph R. Wolin, an independent curator and critic in New York.

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Leo Gabin

Joseph R. Wolin

In this age of the excessive use of images, for us it’s now more relevant than ever to use found footage and recycled imagery. Especially with an abundance of amateurish made “private” imagery put readily available online, the idea of authorship becomes even more questionable. But raising this question can be seen as the essence of the work.

—Leo Gabin[i]

 

We generally associate the idea of appropriation in art with the 1980s, when it found, perhaps, its purest expression in Sherrie Levine’s re-photographs of iconic works by Walker Evans and others. The 1980s also saw the rise of sampling in music, particularly hip hop and new wave, a practice that possesses pronounced affinities with appropriation. Yet the appropriation artists of the ‘80s followed in the footsteps of Elaine Sturtevant and Richard Pettibone, who made replicas of Pop and abstract art at the time of its creation, the 1960s, and their example points out that Pop itself constitutes the first major appropriation-art movement. Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and others at the time took objects and images from American popular culture and incorporated them wholesale into their work.

Rauscheberg and Warhol’s paintings also inspired Leo Steinberg to coin the term “flatbed picture plane” to describe the way their work reoriented the “psychic address of the image” from vertical, like a window, to horizontal, like a printing press or a newspaper.[ii] Steinberg saw this as a radical rethinking of the way a painting conveyed its content, breaking with traditional naturalistic and illusionistic vision, and aligning itself with more symbolic information systems: maps, charts, bulletin boards, and the like.

Contemporary American culture likewise fascinates Leo Gabin. They watch it from afar and respond by appropriating bits of it, sampling it like a DJ, remixing, and reinterpreting existing tropes and images to create something new. Their playlists, nonetheless add up to more than the sum of their parts, bringing to light unexpected meanings of the originals. And, like the rest of us, Leo Gabin gets much of their information about America from the internet, an endless repository of content, both meaningful and meaningless. They gravitate toward user-generated material, searching for pictures and footage that individuals make themselves and post to share lives, ideas, and ideals. In a sense, Leo Gabin search for content that reveals America revealing itself. When they give this back to us, re-orchestrated as paintings, videos, and sculptures, they present us with our own self-image, refracted through a particular collective sensibility.

The suite of Leo Gabin’s paintings in the exhibition, each 81 x 58 inches, includes silkscreened imagery sourced from online photos of American subjects. Tryin to Get In (2014) features six pictures of a Florida State Seminoles baseball cap—three more or less in a faded version of the garnet and gold of the actual thing, one registered in pink as if glitched in the printing, and two existing only as ghostly white silhouettes—floating on top of a photo of a generic suburban house with a large trash can in front of the garage door, which has been doubled and flipped upside down like the picture on a playing card. Arch in Ya Back (2014) shows the same house sans caps, but here with an inset image in the upper right of some over-the-counter supplements and cough syrup. Giving It the Slip (2015) pairs a shot of a pickup truck and an SUV in front of a convenience store with one of assorted beverages in a refrigerator case. The single photo in How Sway How (2015) pictures a woman apparently doing elevated push ups in her kitchen, where an American flag hangs prominently on the wall above her.

In all of these canvases, the photographic images seem informally, almost casually placed, and they share the picture plane with other sorts of marks, some gesturally painted and some indexically imprinted, including the prints of sneaker treads. Here, we might think of Steinberg’s description of Rauschenberg’s technique: “When in the early 1960’s he worked with photographic transfers, the images—each in itself illusionistic—kept interfering with one another; intimations of spatial meaning forever canceling out to subside in a kind of optical noise. The waste and detritus of communication—like radio transmission with interference; noise and meaning on the same wavelength, visually on the same flatbed plane.”[iii]

Yet Leo Gabin retrieve their images not from perusing printed publication but from surfing the web. In a sense, we are talking about what has, in another context, been called “the vertical flatbed picture plane”[iv] Staring at a computer screen orients us physically to a vertical interface, although it switches easily between the idea of a window—looking at a photograph, say—and that of a magazine—reading text or graphics. (One wonders, however, if the smart phone upends this distinction entirely.) Despite the footprints, the scattering of images, and other signs that the canvases were at some point laid out flat, we cannot really see Leo Gabin’s paintings as analogous to a flatbed printing press, nor, to the earlier paradigm of a window or mirror. Their model is the glowing screen, which encompasses all of those other modes of looking, but commands our attention with a new visual regime. Harking back to the masters of transmuting found American images as art, Rauschenberg and Warhol, Leo Gabin’s paintings offer a dispassionate yet critical assessment of contemporary identity, authorship, and meaning, as well as, arguably, a new way of seeing.

A series of short videos Leo Gabin created between 2009 and 2013 demonstrate a similar modus operandi. In these, found footage, often of young people performing for their own cameras, is lightly massaged to tease out underlying or hidden connotations. In some, a gesture—such as obscuring one’s face by shoving a product up to the lens, or entering the frame to execute dance moves in front of a sofa—is repeated by a number of people. In others, similar scenes are set to new soundtracks to produce a third meaning. As in their paintings, Leo Gabin’s videos give us back ourselves, slightly altered or reorganized, a self-portrait through the eyes of others. The mirror they hold up to American society recalls those of European observers before them, starting with Alexis de Tocqueville’s two volumes of Democracy in America (1835, 1840) and continuing at least through Jean Baudrillard’s America (1986). The waste and detritus of communication is us.

Lieven Deconinck, Gaëtan Begerem, and Robin De Vooght have worked together as Leo Gabin since 2000. They earned BFAs from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium, and have taught there as Leo Gabin. Their work has been included in many exhibitions in Europe and the United States, including solo shows at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center (2017); Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Ghent (2015); and Cultural Centre Bruges (2012). Leo Gabin is represented by Peres Projects in Berlin and by VNH Gallery in Paris. The artists live and work in Ghent.

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[i] Quoted in Alex Bennett, “Interview: Leo Gabin,” Modern Matter (June 14, 2013).

[ii] Leo Steinberg, “Other Criteria” [1972], in Other Criteria: Confrontations with Twentieth-Century Art (London, Oxford, and New York: Oxford University Press, 1972), p. 84.

[iii] Ibid., pp. 87–88.

[iv] The Vertical Flatbed Picture Plane was the title of an exhibition at Turner and Byrne Gallery in Dallas in 1991. While this exhibition of then-recent abstract paintings predates the widespread popular use of the internet, the term nonetheless seems useful to describe the conceptual orientation of Leo Gabin’s practice. See Tom Moody, “‘The Vertical Flatbed Picture Plane’: Turner and Byrne Gallery,” Artforum (February 1992), p. 123.