Laven on Recagis

Estimable Australian art historian D H Laven has responded to a post from earlier in the week. He has, as per usual, eshewed the comments box in favour of a letter, which requires me (I fancy) to offer a brief description pertaining to colour, shape and style of handwriting found therein. Here follows said description:

The envelope and paper enclosed are both coloured pale yellow. The envelope is the size known as A6; the paper A5 and folded once across the middle. Laven’s handwriting is, as ever, taut and muscular, except when using the letters, ‘g’, ‘j’ and ‘y’, where it resembles that of a smart primary school girl.

Now, without further ado, I present the content of the letter:

Georgy, allow me – if you will – to respond to a handful of points raised by your short comment entitled ‘Torches, Torches’, in which you offer up a small and somewhat confusing comparison of Luis Recagis and Kohei Yoshiyuki.

Let me start by saying that the main point is not one with which I would disagree. In fact, I must say that am rather relieved to see you make it. Why did my article on Recagis fail to mention Yoshiyuki – or, indeed, any other artist associated, in any way, with the exhibition of artworks in a dark room? It was an oversight, certainly, albeit a deliberate one. Which leads me neatly onto my own main point.

By comparing Recagis’ 1973 exhibition with Yoshiyuki’s 1971 exhibition, one gives the impression that the two artists were aiming at a similar experience. You intimate that Recagis may have ‘copied’ Yoshiyuki. Whilst I would not go so far as to deny the possibility of Recagis having been aware of Yoshiyuki’s work, it is clear that there is something much more complicated than sheer replication going on here.

Let’s look a little more closely at the two exhibitions. Yoshiyuki’s show, held in Japan, consisted of infra-red photographs taken at night, featuring a range of procreating couples. The exhibition was clearly an exploration, if not a celebration, of sexual voyeurism.

Recagis’ exhibition employed the same tactic – allowing torch-holding visitors into a dark room – but with very different intentions. Recagis, a painter, worked by torchlight: as such he believed this the most appropriate way to exhibit his pieces. The works in question are mostly portraits of the artist’s head – and are in no sense scandalous. Though the issue of ‘voyeurism’ is of course raised by the method of exhibition (as it almost always is), Recagis had no intention of foregrounding it. His major, if not single aim was to recreate the conditions of artistic creation.

There can be no doubt that Recagis’ and Yoshiyuki’s exhibition shared a common bond, nor should we deny their palpable differences. On the same, curious, foundation they built two unique structures. To suggest, even, that Recagis was aping Yoshiyuki would be, I think, a judgment of the crudest sort.

Yours most faithfully,

D H Laven

P.S. Why don’t you ring me anymore?

(for more, see ‘”Light’s Out”: ‘The Unfortunate Art of Luis Recagis’, by D H Laven)

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