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Francesca Gabbiani
In the Movie


Vanishing Blue

Lady's Bath

Ochre Smoke
Beautiful Dislocation
by Eve Wood

Francesca Gabbiani, Dec. 1, 2001-Jan. 8, 2002, at Karyn Lovegrove Gallery, 6150 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, Ca. 90048.

In her current exhibition at Karyn Lovegrove's pristine space in L.A.'s 6150 Wilshire art complex, Francesca Gabbiani gives us a dozen interior views of hotel lobbies, ballrooms, hallways and bathrooms. Based on film stills, the images are actually collages of colored paper, meticulously cut and assembled.

Gabbiani's interiors are delicate and densely imagined, breathtaking spectacles in miniature. Her images capture a dramatic moment between the real and the imagined, the instant in which the world we understand and depend upon dissolves into a decorative panorama of voracious, unrelenting forms and colors.

In the Movie shows a long, cavernous hall with a gaudy, patterned red and orange carpet. A closed door stands at the far end of the passageway like a final pronouncement. The patterns in the carpet are dizzyingly noxious, and the high ceilings and classical architecture give the space a haunted look. In fact, the image derives from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, and shares an intense, almost monumental stateliness with that film.

Balloons shows another vertiginous hall receding into the distance, its stately architecture mysteriously punctuated by the eponymous balloons. The Lady's Bath, suffused in serene greens and golds, shows an empty room with toilet, sinks and curtained tub. It seems too quiet, as if to foreshadow something terrible that has yet to happen there.

Gabbiani's images aren't as much about specific places as their memorialization and celebration in the imagination, which is clearly more compelling than the actual fact of the places themselves. Gabbiani's work has been described as "seeking not to render subjects accurately, but to capture ever-more-minute levels of detail, which, ironically, only results in greater levels of abstraction."

The scenes are unpeopled, which adds to their sense of foreboding. Claudine Ise, assistant curator at the UCLA Armand Hammer Museum, where Gabbiani has also showed her work, describes this discomfiture as "an instance when as object, hidden in shadow or seen from a distance or at an odd angle, is impossible to recognize and thus to identify or name. Without a cognitive reference point, the amorphous entity looks like something other than itself, or could be anything at all."

Gabbiani's work investigates the bizarre disjunctions between opulence, the world of high social rank, immersed in a perverse sort of decadence, and the breaches in memory that are inexplicable, and that compel us deeper into our lives. Gabbiani's images transcend the obvious references to wealth and grandness, and are themselves transformed into vivid, lush environments where architecture becomes its own character in a setting devoid of figures.

Gabbiani's vision is refreshing in its strangeness. Her devotion to her process is strongly felt, and each of these images spares nothing, not a single moment of doubt or questioning, married only to the fierce, irrefutable perception that unoccupied space is active, indeed activated, sometimes haunting, beautiful and brutal. The collages are modestly priced at $3,200.

EVE WOOD is an artist and writer who lives in L.A.