Thierry Dreyfus has been sculpting with light for the past three decades - be it for Yves Saint Laurent and Calvin Klein fashion shows, hotels or the reopening of Paris' Grand Palais - but his new exhibition at fledgling Brooklyn gallery, The Invisible Dog Art Center, is his first major solo show of personal pieces.
Cryptically titled '(Naked) absence - (blinding) presence... (dis)appearances', it's a deliberately disorientating experience. As with most of the Frenchman's work, the show is not just about light, but the way it interacts with objects, sounds and space - a combination that has a very immersive effect on the viewer.
Step into the first room and you'll find a series of mirrors with an aged, textured surface, lit by a red wall of light. But, search for your reflection in the mirrors, and instead of seeing yourself, someone else's image might stare back at you - or their hands, a cloud or even an obscure landscape.
'Besides light, there is nothing more powerful than the mirror - a subjective hole inside reality - to attract the visitor's attention, thereby forcing one to dive into oneself,' says Dreyfus. This introspection is made strangely all the more potent by the fact that your reflection is obscured. And, with its disorientating play with light and mirror, the installation proves once again that Dreyfus is the master of refraction and reflection - as seen from his fashion shows and architectural installations.
The next room plunges you into darkness, with only the sound of Dreyfus' heartbeat for company. As its pace gradually accelerates, so the light begins to illuminate a resin figure of a man, and, when it reaches its heart attack-worthy crescendo, the light becomes so bright that the figure seems to disappear. It makes you question if it was ever there? And, if there was no light, would anything really exist?
Down in the basement of this former dog accessories factory (hence the name), Dreyfus flexes his lesser-known photography skills with a series of beautiful and haunting scenes whose dramatic location isn't revealed until you have finished your journey through them. This strips them of their historical context and subsequently Dreyfus' reason for taking them. 'If one were always to say where, to describe the intent with which a picture was taken, to express what happened when it was shot, it would blur the image and disrupt it's inner silence,' says Dreyfus. 'This intellectual idea of what might have happened "there" adds up to replace or disrupt our initial sensation. It annihilates our first feelings.'
These pictures certainly evoke an emotional response - heightened all the more by the rawness of the setting. Opened a year ago as a gallery and studio, The Invisible Dog encourages its multi-disciplinary artists to take advantage of the space's idiosyncrasies and, to that end, Dreyfus has made a feature out pipes and shelves brimming with reels of ribbons and leashes. This further removes the photographs from their original context, with surprisingly powerful results.