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May 26, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 21
 
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French performance artist, Christian Rizzo, creates exquisite visual images at On the Boards
French performance artist, Christian Rizzo, creates exquisite visual images at On the Boards
by E. Joyce Glasgow - SGN A&E Writer

French "body" artist, Christian Rizzo, brought his unique and highly imaginative performance art piece to On the Boards, May 18th-May 20th. Entitled; "i might as well want the blue of the sky and ride away on a donkey", the piece incorporates light, sound, movement, disparate objects and a sleek, geometrical architectural installation, combining and abstracting into a conceptual manifestation of absolutely exquisite and dynamic visual images, enhanced by a live sound score. This is Rizzo's first trip to the United States and is considered one of Europe's most innovative performance artists. Lane Czaplinski, On the Board's artistic director, saw his work on a trip to France in 2004 and engaged him to come to Seattle.

As someone who appreciates intriguing artistic visual images and composition, I was constantly amazed by the number of engrossing, provocative, compelling images that I felt could be portrayed beautifully by a painter or great fine art photographer. Each image had a life unto itself and stimulated my imagination to wonder, how taken out of context, (or even in context), could be exciting, mysterious and cryptic to any viewer, affecting the viewer strongly on a subconscious and visceral level. The lighting designer Caty Olive's use of powerfully saturating red stage lights, bathing the set and occasionally flickering, interspersed with the shadowy and cold fluorescent light glowing up from beneath a transparent glass tabletop, darkness, and softer, subdued creamy light on the installation, completed the over all impact of Rizzo's presentation. The lighting was operated with some improvisation by Mael Iger. As Rizzo uttered sounds and poetic words in French into a microphone at various times, sound designer, Gerome Nox, manipulated them electronically, creating repeated sound loops, and altering them into different sound patterns and echoes. I found this especially compelling when, in red light, Rizzo was building on vocalizations while cutting holes in a stocking around his right calf, which was stuffed with red fabric, which he then pulled through the holes in little tufts, protruding, almost like an abstract expression of bleeding. All the while he was wearing a black Afro wig which was completely covering his head and face. He then removed the stocking by keeping its shape intact and sliding it off his leg, putting the Afro wig on top and hanging it on the wall creating a new and unusual sculpture for us to enjoy studying with a whole new perspective. At another time he danced with a fox skin around his neck while his face was covered in a stocking. These images were so disparate and surprising that I, as an audience member, was constantly challenged or engaged. The fox pelt, juxtaposed at the end with the stocking-red fabric-Afro sculpture, produced an intriguing artistic composition.

Rizzo is extravagantly creative and by his use of materials and approach, one can recognize the influence in his work of his fashion design and rock music background. His work is sculptural, conceptual and innovative. He completely throws his body into his work with commitment and uses it in unexpected ways, again very much as a visual artist. I can imagine this piece being done as an art installation in a gallery and it reminds me in some ways of the free associative nature of artistic "happenings" of the sixties but with a clearer, sharper, more on-the-edge, twenty-first century sensibility. At one point, he placed a lovely white Casablanca lily on the table, very deliberately and meticulously, in a compositionally- perfect spot, next to a small, dark, worn suitcase. He opened the case to retrieve giant capsules of large, forest- green glitter and poured them open, one by one, onto the table. He then covered his face in lotion and placed his face straight down into the mound of glitter, rolling his face back and forth until it was completely covered in glitter. His face was striking, random bits of glitter creating that specific performance's quirky effects, not to be repeated exactly again. The actions, objects, sounds and lights change slightly with each performance. This is living, breathing art.

Rizzo is an idiosyncratic artist and that's what works so well for him. He is so idiosyncratic that his work becomes universal, creating an open field, with each viewer perceiving their own unique, individual meaning to his personal.

Visit their website (www.ontheboards.org) for information about up-coming events and keep your eyes on the SGN for a preview of OTB's exciting 2006-2007 season.

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