" It appears Mr. La Gamba doesn’t want to be seen."
However, a closer look reveals his face, sculptured into everyday miscellany. The rest of him…well, that’s another story. Dubbed Procrypsis by the artist, his self-instigated phenomenon has gained him worldwide recognition. Within the clutter of confined urban environments, this innovative Frenchman weaves himself into the scene, leaving little human trace. It only seems that the space itself has taken on a new, interesting shape.
In exploring the fundaments of camouflage, Laurent La Gamba reveals a means of protection from urban manifests. Like an animal, he blends with his milieu, bringing pulse to a humdrum world. In search of his hiding place, he creates painted installations for his static effigy. In doing so, he seeks the most profound realism, becoming a pragmatic episode of monotony. Ironically, within in the empty vacuum of repetition, his artificiality renders personification. Thanks to La Gamba, the face of a milk carton is forever changed. Rather than instigating nourishment, opening the fridge will now become the door to a mirror.
In labels, lids and containers, La Gamba appears, his white coat tailored to suit. Yet within his pose lies a sense of mendacity, innate to the many masks stripping him of self. Insatiable, his contagion adheres to no limits, liberating the artist into an omnipresent being. As part of all seen or overlooked, he brings a new face to the everyday, with his stories wryly told. As a whole, he offers a critical or cynical view, raising curiosity within tedium. Some may call him quirky, others just plain odd, but in his idiosyncrasy, he creates a wave of colour, superseding daily rituals.
Aside from effervescence, his work leaves a dismal residue. In his masquerade, La Gamba withdraws from the metropolis, guarded from conformity by his protective skin. This hedonistic artist shows no qualms, yet with his pet-like manner, becomes an emblem of domesticity."
Reviewed by Louise Thompson (12 - 25 May 2003) Wilson Street Gallery
" Trained as a painter, French artist Laurent La Gamba likewise mingles absurdity and a seriousness of intend in a series of color photographs that rely on a performative aspect. The subject of each image is an individual wearing a costume painted to match a section of supermarket display - shelves of various brands of pet food, for example. Thus camouflaged, the figures are subsumed by namebrand identities, calling attention to the manner in which we define ourselves in a commodity-based consumer culture."
Kate Hackman, Society for Contemporary Photography, 2002
INTERVIEW by Erica France MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART
The act of identification is a common foundation that each of your series consider. Have you worked with notions of "identity" in the past?
Laurent La Gamba: The figure is absolutely predominant in all my work be it through over- or under-representation (hyper-realism or camouflage.) My interests lie in showing how identification can go both ways, from one extreme to the other and sometimes how different identities can coexist for some time before a path is chosen. My work has aimed at showing this alluring and inherently human schizophrenia.
And how does the concept of identity resonate within this exhibition?
Laurent La Gamba: How do people send signals to others about who they are in a society where consumerism and mass production are the norm? What people buy are very much transitional objects (as defined by D.W Winnicott, the psychoanalyst)‹ a source of comfort and also a source of pride where they show both what they've bought and can afford and what good taste they have (that's what they hope can be seen and why I show heads‹ the visible seat of thought!) and yet this act immediately blends them into the scenery because their unique car or fridge is of course one of so many...
Laurent, pro-crypsis is a rather technical term that you use to describe the physical transformation of an entity in order to blend with its immediate environment. How did you happen upon this phenomenon?
Laurent La Gamba: I have been always been fascinated by the camouflage phenomenon. I was also looking for a term that could translate the French word "homochromie" which comprises this idea of "chromatic merging." Then, I came to this idea of defining my photographic art and installations as "Pro-cryptic Photography".
And what about this recurring cigarette, Laurent?
Laurent La Gamba: I think that the temptation of using the same cigarette each time can be seen under two lights: one, there is the will to play with this virtual element of identification (I don't smoke, therefore the viewer has not only no idea who I am, but also it means that I can create any idea of the artist's "image", and two, it echoes back to my self-portrait series in which I always use this cigarette as a pattern from one painting to the next.
What is the most compelling moment you shared with one of your models, as you both set up to broach topics such as gender, individuality, ageing, and beauty?
The treatment (or dispensation) of the subjects' heads is of note in Photo ID. We have Suzanne's figures, from the neck down, that formally interact with objects in a still life environment, Laurent's installations where the face is most revealing of one's character, and Gwen's photographs that, in instances, barely allude to any discernable part of the figure. What are your thoughts on the inherent value or significance of certain areas of the body?
Laurent La Gamba: The value or the significance of certain areas of the human body is really the key point of my pro-cryptic installations. To me, a staged body is always a link to partial body parts: hands, bottom, head. In the pro-cryptic series my focus is on the eyes. When working with camouflage in my "artificial" or industrial settings the only link left between the person who is posing and the viewer is the eye. Found in nature, an eyelike spot called the ocellus (e.g. the spots on peacock feathers) is "drawn" on certain animals'/insects' bodies to attract a predator¹s attention. The camouflaged body translates this symbolic disappearance for the viewer, the remaining part‹ the eyes‹ are the final partial contact with the viewer, seen as the essential "lust link".
[Photo ID: examining the figure through photography]
Suzanne Opton/Gwen Laine/Laurent La Gamba
MOCA, Museum of Contemporary Art, Fort Collins, U.S.A.,
curated Erica France.
Auto-portraits et Corps fantasmatiques
Laurent La Gamba traite, de son côté, la polarité voilé/dévoilé, Orient/Occident, sous l'angle politique, polémique, satirique. L'autoportrait, sa présentation en diptyque, sert une mise en scène dichotomique et symétrique des stéréotypes qui s'attachent à l'identité orientale et à l'identité occidentale. Les montages photographiques s'organisent autour des stigmates, marqueurs visuels socioculturels simplistes, que relaie la médiasphère. L'artiste inventorie les codifications physiques, les schématisations vestimentaires que recouvre la division Orient/Occident, fait valoir à la fois la force de séparation et la limite conceptuelle de cette stigmatisation de l'autre, de l'étranger, faisant que la différence engendre le différend. Cet inventaire, l'artiste le pousse jusqu'à l'absurde, porte à son comble l'absurdité même des typologies, en explorant les recoins du langage. Ainsi, dans le diptyque intitulé "Chirurgie plastique/plastiquage", l'artiste joue sur l'homonymie et les contraires. L'obsession occidentale de changer de corps, de modifier son apparence par le recours à la chirurgie plastique – action réparatrice – se voit mise en parallèle avec le plastiquage des corps – action destructrice – du terrorisme islamiste. Par cette mise en regard arbitraire, en apparence irrationnelle, l'artiste lève le voile sur le corps fantasmatique qui mue la différence en stigmate.
"Laurent La Gamba, Corps