Jean-Marc Bustamente’s Tableaux photographs (1978-82) are profitably considered in the context of a newly emerging approach to art photography (including also Jeff Wall and Thomas Ruff) that saw the size of the print much expanded and the intended site of the image shifted from the book to the wall, with an accompanying expectation that the photographs be looked at like paintings.

Bustamente’s Tableaux are so sharply detailed and visually dense that the viewer is effectively excluded from the work’s “mute, uninflected, unmetabolizable thereness” (p.21). Fried quotes Ulrich Loock:

“Bustamente’s iconic strategy, consists in presenting things in all their physicality, as material realities, but, becaue the gaze is not allowed to penetrate the scene, deprived of all (imaginary) bodily interaction with them. This exclusion of the beholder […] is one condition of the appearance of things in their intact singularity.”
[Ulrich Looke (2005) “Out of Focus” in Jean-Marc Bustamente (Paris, 2005)]

His Tableau no. 103  and Tableau no. 104 (both 1991) are a pair of very similar photographs showing a dense wall of cyprus trees with so little spatial depth Fried connects them to the “non-illusionistic paintings that immediately preceded the advent of minimalism, notably Frank Stella’s stripe paintings” (p.22). A further connection to minimalism is the repetitive effect of experiencing the two near-identical paintings side by side—what Donald Judd describes as the “one thing after another” structure of minimalism (cited p.22). Together with the photographs’ characteristic exclusion of the viewer from the scene, the works approach (without quite reaching) the condition of modernist objecthood in which the viewer’s experience constitutes the work.

Image:
Jean-Marc Bustamante, Tableau 17 (1979)
cibachrome 103 x 130 cm
Image courtesy Christie’s 

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