Following his apprenticeship to William Klein, an American photographer living in Paris, Jean-Marc Bustamante abandoned painting for sculpture and photography. In 1989 he began a series of large photographic images silkscreened on Plexiglas and mounted about two inches from the wall on metal brackets. Being partially transparent, the Lumières, as the series is known, seem to glow with an inner light because they are illuminated by light reflected through them from the wall behind. While each construction has an austere and undeniable corporeality, the images floating on it are oddly tenuous. Like film suspended in air yet substantial enough to cast shadows, these works have a presence bordering on absence and resonate in the viewer's mind like memories.
The schoolroom, rephotographed from an anonymous photograph, is common to all systems of Western education. If its utilitarian architecture, serial patterning, darkness, and anonymity are freighted with overtones of incarceration, no particular regime is implicated. Rather, the way the desks glow like individual wells of consciousness, their illuminated tops rhyming with the windows, suggests the dichotomy between inner and outer realities—a principle concern of Bustamante—and hints at the ability of light and imagination, impalpaple transgressors, to commute between these states.