To produce the works presented in “The Sky Is Shaped By Its City Buildings,” currently on show at London’s Rook & Raven, Alexis Dahan stopped in his tracks, looked up, and shot. The skies and architecture he captured from London to Milan are his central subjects — abstracted to the point of disappearance.
In the four large pieces exhibited in the gallery’s first space, buildings have become black geometrical forms, framing an expanse of white sky. They hark back unashamedly to the constructivists and their play with dynamic shapes, yet their charm lays in the knowledge that these aren’t just pure abstraction, but records, however elusive, of moments in time.
In another series, Dahan goes as far as translating these slices of emptiness into milky white reliefs, as if suggesting one could just grab a chunk of sky and walk away with it stuffed in a basket. Once again, each work is anchored in a particular place. The titles read “Vigo and Sackeville,” “Saville Row,” “Plough Yard” — fragments of the city, echoed in the immensity of the sky above.
Benjamin and Baudelaire’s flaneurs, Guy Debord’s dérive, and Michel de Certeau’s walker are all echoed in this work, which gives a fetching physical incarnation to something as intangible as the feeling of losing oneself in the metropolis. One can only regret the inclusion of the unaltered photographs presented in a second gallery. They reveal too much of a mystery that, perhaps, would have been best preserved.
Alexis Dahan, The Sky is Shaped by Its City Buildings, May 9 – June 6, 2013, Rook & Raven, London