Chris Beas at Martha Otero Gallery- Art Scene (May 2010)
On May 1, 1994 famed Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna lost control of his car on the seventh lap of the San Marino Grand Prix at the Imola Circuit, 25 miles south of Bologna. Senna’s multi-million dollar Formula 1 race car reached speeds of 190 miles per hour as he approached the Tamburello turn, and mechanical error in the driver’s steering column caused the car to pummel into the concrete wall and turn one of the world’s fastest driving machines into a burning and decaying metal frame, capable of disintegrating in a matter of moments. Debris of metal sheets and tires flew beyond Tamburello and injured four Ferrari and Lotus mechanics as well as ten spectators. Senna’s fateful crash was a nightmarish spectacle relived through the repeated viewing of footage, and later under the microscope of judicial investigators. The devastation at Tamburello was transformative in its ability to unhinge and reconfigure associative relationships- the name of a single turn of the San Marino Grand Prix became inextricably linked to the demise of one of the brightest stars in the racing world. Above all the event represented a literal collision of the fantasy of motor racing and the lingering and unseen imminence of death. Chris Beas named his exhibition at Martha Otero after the legendary turn and while his investigation of the sporting world has remained a constant source of fascination in his art practice, his new work consists of ten paintings and two sculptures that serve as vehicles through which to analyze the affect Senna’s car had its on surrounding environ. Many of Beas’ past shows include sculptural installations such as This is the One, a configuration of four miniature grand stands constructed from wood and plexiglass with miniature bronze sculptures flanked in isolated plexi glass cases. The soccer players are presented as demi-gods balancing on a single leg while the other limb contorts in a kicking motion with their opponent trapped inside of their calf. A two-dimensional rendering of a soccer field characterized by rigid lines and semi circles is displayed on the adjacent wall and the deliberate placement of the field void of its players reveals Beas’ observation that sporting events are as much about the spectator’s engagement in viewing the game as they are participants in the game of viewing each other.
Just as the artist had done in his first solo exhibition L.A. at David Kordansky Gallery in 2004 where he used the gallery space as a means to create the very environment which he was investigating, Tamburello is no different. Beas created a 1/32-scale replica slot car track of the F1 circuit at Imola, which, measures 250 x 103 inches and occupies nearly 50 feet. This sculpture will serve as the site for the San Marino Slot Car Grand Prix inside of the gallery space. It appears that Beas is drawing a parallel between the literal play-things that replicate the racing world, and the instant dissemination of Senna’s own F1 that broke a part as if it were a child’s toy. The second sculpture is the artist’s investigation of the impact Senna’s racecar had on the wall at Tamburello. The mixed media piece also titled Tamburello is a freeze frame of Senna’s car as the back wheel detached from the axle while the second rear wheel is lost in a cloud of smoke, while the entire steering column has been detached and is hurling toward the viewer. Senna’s helmet however remains perfectly still, offering no signs of struggle. The works are visceral renderings of a historical moment, but in his analysis and recreation of Ayrton Senna, Chris Beas establishes an a-temporal experience the Tamburello turn.