One of the weirdest, most compelling works in Denis Darzacq and Anna Lüneman’s collaborative show at De Soto Gallery through July 23 is Doublemix No. 10 (2014), in which a yellow and brown earthenware snake wraps around a boulder. The boulder stands dead center in a relatively unremarkable photograph of a forest. The photograph has been precisely cut so that the snaking ceramic “insert” (all these sculptural components are called inserts) can sit snuggly inside it. The work invites an absorbing confusion that only a few works in the show manage to convey.
Previous photographic projects by the Paris-based Darzacq have been of the magical realism variety, in which his subjects jump or float supernaturally against familiar settings (grocery store aisles or sidewalks). The work of Lüneman, a Brussels-based artist, can be at once intentionally sloppy and obsessively detailed. A blobby figure balances on a delicate platter held up by hearts, or an amorphous arm holds up flame-like shoots of medusa hair.
Darzacq and Lüneman have been friends for years, and their choice to collaborate pulls their work into a photography-into-sculpture conversation with a rich history – MoMA identified the trend as early as 1970, with an exhibition organized by Peter Bunnell, and recent shows have revisited it. The artists who have experimented with the intersection are many, the most interesting works attractively hovering in a loosely defined space between object and image. For instance, Carl Cheng printed images onto molded plastic that ballooned slightly in the 1960s, and Todd Gray attached a taxidermied horse’s behind to a photograph of a tree in 2006.
The problem with Darzacq and Lüneman’s collaboration is that it often does not hover convincingly between one thing and another. For the most part, the image – objects come in a manageable size, no larger than 42 inches high, often close to 12, and never protruding far from the wall. They all sit comfortably in frames, the conventions of photography trumping the dimensional possibilities of sculpture. What if some images were smaller than their ceramic companions, or ten times larger? What if a ceramic snake started winding out of the frame, across a wall? Then, maybe, we’d escape a realm where control and tasteful composition reigns, and glimpse some more engaging disarray.