AboutBorn in Toulouse in 1952, Jean-Marc Bustamante has been a significant figure in the international art world since the mid-1980s, through his work and teaching. This exhibition, made especially for the Henry Moore Institute, brings together two areas of his practice, and explores the relationship between photography and sculpture.
Bustamante's early work aspired to give photography the status of painting and can be compared to others of his generation - such as Jeff Wall and Thomas Struth - who deployed larger formats and new strategies to edge photography up the established hierarchy. Having given his photographs new scale and grandeur in his 'Grands Formats', Bustamante moved to give it weight and volume. This development was clearly registered in work he made for the two villas designed by architect Mies van der Rohe in Germany's industrial heartland, where bland photographs of industrial hinterlands were presented in frames of precious wood and integrated into carefully designed pieces of furniture.
These works have an ambiguous relationship with the functional and draw on established vocabularies of art and design. Despite their coolness and apparent detachment, the exhibition and accompanying text suggest that these works bring us close to something morbid; to the cemetery or tomb. Empty spaces - photographs of the abandoned breeze-block building foundations of summer villas and pools, boxes or frames - have intimations which go beyond the purely aesthetic.
Bustamante's clear, direct vision is characterised by an extraordinary ordinariness that allows us see its subject, the natural and the built worlds around us, in a new way. Whether object or image, Bustamante's works operate as holes in our perception. The exhibition's title, Dead Calm, derives from the artist's predilection for the fine days of summer, and links to the idea of a final resting place.
Curated by Penelope Curtis, Dead Calm is a collaboration with Edinburgh's Fruitmarket Gallery, where a complementary exhibition was shown earlier this year. In the Institute's programme it develops strands which have looked both at the sculptural qualities of contemporary painting and at modernist architecture.
A major new monograph is published to accompany this collaborative exhibition. Jean-Marc Bustamante: Dead Calm illustrates Bustamante's artistic practices from the late 1970s to the present day. It includes a series of critical essays commissioned for the exhibition, alongside existing texts translated into English for the first time.