On ViewCristin Tierney
Astrodoubt and the Quarantine Chronicles (An Introduction)
January 28 – March 5, 2022
Whenever a calamity such as the current pandemic emerges to media visibility, artists are quick to respond. In dramatic contrast to the virus-prompted removal from social dimensions of time and space, so many have experienced in recent years, Venetian-born New York-based artist Luca Buvoli has opened the door to a major series of installations, collectively known as Astrodoubt and the Quarantine Chronicles (an Introduction). This personalized saga could be described as a fictionalized narrative based on what is happening in the world today, as people’s routines and habits are rigorously displaced.
Given the amount of attention Buvoli has recently received outside the United States, it is surprising to find that this is his first exhibition in New York in thirteen years. But the times could not be more appropriate to Buvoli’s project, as the social and, to some extent, the political context of Astrodoubt must be recognized as a global phenomenon: familiar exchanges, once recognized as everyday communication, have been transformed into virtual information. Likewise, the art of conversation has been severely mediated, only to be replaced with virtual short-wave allegations, such as: “I sent you an email. You didn’t get it?”
I would suggest that portions of this state of affairs are indirectly built into Buvoli‘s animated shorts, which include the ironic and amusing Welcome To Covidville (2022) and A Brief History of Time (Under Covid)—In 7 Lessons (2022). In these works, invented figures, including the main character Astrodoubt, who more than likely operates as a stand-in for the artist himself, are moved into outer space, an environment posing a challenge in many ways equal to our current pandemic isolation. Buvoli’s brilliantly animated episodes, conceived and executed entirely by himself, are accompanied by a static installation on the opposite wall, cited by the gallery as “a large-scale wall sculpture” and titled Galaxy Wall (obviously a metaphor for the Gallery Wall it occupies). A major motif in this large-scale spiraling assemblage is a home vacuum cleaner, presumably used to clean up black holes merging in outer space and simultaneously represent their gravitational pull. These astronomic and somewhat ironic framed elements reflect Buvoli‘s paradoxical references to the space age.
Since a very early age, the artist has been committed to coming to terms with the universe through scientific research. His sensitivity to the cosmos has continued to blossom into the future, or better put, into what he believes the future might be. While studying the 33 figurative and abstract drawings that make up Galaxy Wall—each framed separately with Super Sculpey clay—what struck me most powerfully was how each work held its own presence as an image/text drawing, yet at the same time, remained a study for possible use in other media, such as illustrated books, cartoon comics, or even virtual publication on a platform like Instagram, where the drawings first received attention.
To de-code these works is a critical challenge, but they also provide us access to an important key to Buvoli’s exhibition. It takes time to read the text that stretches consecutively across the 33 drawings amidst drawn elements and ellipses, but it is a kind of time that emits a certain exuberance. A partial transcript:
All clusters of Galaxies are part of the cosmos and at the center of [our] Cosmic Depression … there is Coronavirus … If two Black Holes … are in close orbit to each other … and they get too close … they merge … When they merge, they generate gravitational waves … that are felt across the Universe … like the ripple effects
… many closing businesses had in the pandemic that happened to the economy a century ago . . . These gravitational waves (created by the merging … of two black holes) … had been predicted by Einstein … but their existence was proven … only a few years ago … Did Einstein or any other geniuses predict Covid-19 ? … If scientists could manage to have the Coronavirus sucked into a Black Hole … Would it ever return?
Buvoli is concerned that his art should correlate with science—specifically with quantum physics where “time does not exist”—rather than creating a separation or dichotomy between the two. In viewing his drawings and animations in this context, there are moments of humor, which are brilliant. However, when the drawings were first posted on Instagram beginning in April 2020, the professional response to the work was serious, and included the multi-museum film and multimedia curator John Hanhardt, who has organized the current exhibition. Buvoli’s subtle humor projects from his text/drawings without sacrificing the accuracy of his research, as suggested in the excerpt above.
This is also apparent in Buvoli’s creation of Astrodoubt, a futuristic figure harnessed into a space-suit including a cinematic helmet, ready for action. The name of this fictitious character suggests for Buvoli a vision of life as both a unity of space and time and a wonder to behold. I sensed this quality many years ago when the artist first came to New York. There was little doubt Buvoli would continue to remain on his own track and that his assumptions regarding art and science within a fundamentally paradoxical Universe would distinguish him. He knows the right propulsion for taking off into both outer and inner space/time.