Assuming it’s possible to distinguish an artist from a layperson based on abstract theoretical concerns alone: what cachet does an artist carry to distinguish them as such? An unaffected and unremitting tendency to indulge in one’s personal fancy—fantasy—must be it. In concert, Canadian-born, now Paris-based artist Scott Treleaven’s body of work traffics in strains of the fantastic wed inseparably to the individual. His earliest collages appealed to the steamiest type of fantasy, offering candid shots of young punk-rock boys, as if Penelope Spheeris’ seminal documentary “The Decline of Western Civilization” (1981) were set into homoerotic overdrive. Instead of watching a shirtless Darby Crash recounting his personal philosophies—or lack thereof—we see Treleaven seeing this scene, with the same somewhat-iconic figures played by a cast of anonymous young men.
His latest body of work, on display in his third solo show with trans-local dealer Kavi Gupta, indulges in less-sultry, but perhaps more imaginative fantasies, trading the punk rockers for romantically elaborated visions of Paris and worlds beyond. This is the type of fantasy, as a genre, that positions its characters in semi-familiar settings elaborated and distorted via the imagination, taking its cues from Jean Genet’s “Notre Dame des Fleurs” rather than “The Lord of the Rings.” The show begins in collage while branching into photography, bookmaking (Treleaven began as a renowned zinester before moving into gallery art) and video with musical scoring provided by Terence Hannum and his ambient-metal group Locrian.
The appearance of an antique hand-mirror frames a transient video and six color photographs. Its encapsulation calls attention to the image as such—a longstanding modernist device once thought to render the picture universally accessible by freeing it from descriptive necessities, which Treleaven employs to similar effect, literally dislocating the image from space and time, not to drive it further into itself, but instead to construct a cosmology from his own fancy. His goal is not to envision utopian possibilities, but to test the plausibility of communion among distinct subjectivities. (Nate Lee)
Through December 5 at Kavi Gupta Gallery, 835 W. Washington