Justin Schlepp's inscrutable interpretation of a film that never happened

Untitled by Justin Schlepp
Untitled by Justin Schlepp

A visit to Justin Schlepp's "The Counter-Paralypse," now on view at David Petersen Gallery, feels like searching through the archives of an artist's research, with sketches and mockups playing with ideas and source material. It's not work that you necessarily enjoy or have any kind of emotional or physical response to. Rather, the sketches, mixed-media work, and sculptural pieces are kind of like clues to figuring out the artist's process.

Untitled by Justin Schlepp
Untitled by Justin Schlepp

The name of the exhibition comes from a term coined by Roland Barthes, who defines it as the opposite of paralypse, or saying you're not going to say something and then saying it. The counter-paralypse is when you say you are going to say something very important soon, but then don't, as Barthes describes in Sade, Fourier, Loyola

The title of the exhibit feels quite apt for a body of work based on a movie adaptation of a graphic novel the artist admits he hasn't read, and is "pretentious in the truest sense of the term," according to the gallery notes.   

The back story about the work has to do with the failed film adaptation of French cartoonist Jean Giraud's, a.k.a. Moebius, masterpiece The Airtight Garage, a science fiction graphic novel that first appeared in serialized form in the 1970s. 

According to a 2009 Wired article Giraud, who worked on films such as Alien, The Abyss, and Tron, had a deal with a Russian animation studio to bring The Airtight Garage to life in 1990, but the deal fell through when the Soviet Union dissolved. Nearly 20 years later, Akira Kurosawa planned to adapt the film, and that deal fell through as well.
"Untitled" by Justin Schlepp
"Untitled" by Justin Schlepp

It's a fascinating story, more fascinating than what you'll see in the gallery, which consists of sketches, designs, and models. What you're really seeing is the artist's imagination at work, drawing from the inspiration of the failed film production as well as source material as varied as Michelangelo to a model of the interior of the IBM Pavilian designed for the World's Fair. 

Ultimately, the show doesn't feel like it's made for an audience. It's not made for the benefit of the viewer, but rather as a vehicle for the artist's process. If you're the type of person that enjoys reading the footnotes to lengthy theoretical treatises, you may enjoy the intellectual exercise of following the obscure references Schlepp lays out. But as stand-alone pieces of art, they're pretty inaccessible. 


"The Counter-Paralypse"
Through September 28
David Petersen Gallery
2018 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis

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David Petersen Gallery

2018 Lyndale Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55405



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