Deux pièces meublées
Deux pièces meublées
Past: March 23 → May 4, 2014Deux pièces meublées — Galerie municipale Jean Collet Placée sous le patronage théorique de John Armleder qui rappelle que l’œuvre d’art « a toujours aussi été un objet domestique », l’... Critique
I’ve always disliked the division between form and content and have never known what to answer when asked but what is the content?, what does it mean?
Donald Judd, Art and Architecture, 1983
Two Furnished Rooms — a strange if slightly familiar title for an exhibition exploring the connections between a group of artists — Julien Berthier, Katinka Bock, Mario D’Souza, Nathalie Elemento, Jean-François Leroy, Vincent Mauger, Stéphanie Nava, Julien Pastor, Alexandra Sá, Laurent Suchy, Rémi Ucheda — and furniture in every shape and form. The artists convened by curators Catherine Viollet and Alexandra Sá represent different generations but have in common an interest in the domestic sphere and the living environment in general. In their work household items and materials become narrative media on the cusp between art and interior design, with the objects emancipated from their initial function and cut free of their use value. Out of the resultant artistic diversity and depth emerge a number of questions: what elective process has brought these objects and these artists together ? What is the nature of the relationship between a house and its furniture ? And what does this tell us about life in an age when omnipresent standardised procedures, recycling and ecology are the focus of so many artistic stratagems ?
To round off the exhibition, Alexandra Sá has placed at its centre a monumental but extremely slender piece of black furniture: The almost flat Library. Only the shelves on the sides can be used, and on them, for consultation by the visitor, the artists have left books that have been major influences on them. This library/display rack provides just the right ambience for a challenge to the false dichotomy between form and idea, sensation and theory. Another significant choice on the part of the curators is a presentation of drawings: not preliminary sketches for three-dimensional pieces, but artworks in their own right.
After the readymade
From Duchamp to Arman and including Bertrand Lavier and Droog Design, the manufactured item has achieved its own hallowed status — individually, in pairs and in series. Initially contested, the readymade went on to be hailed and was ultimately put on a pedestal. Analysed by Jean-François Lyotard in Duchamp’s Transformers in the late 1970s, this repulsion-attraction nexus triggered by the products of our mechanised society paved the way for a much more sacrilegious art of appropriation and sabotage. One extreme example is a video from 2010 showing Vincent Mauger cutting up the perfectly ordinary table he is standing on with a chainsaw: in its blending of the romantic, the witless and the detached, an act the artist describes as a metaphor for his sculptural practice foregrounds this predatory attitude to everyday industrial materials and their subversive transformation into something else.
Rémi Uchéda brings the same irreverence to chairs with metal tube frames: commonplace these days, but once emblematic of the modernist aesthetic of Marcel Breuer and the Bauhaus. Uchéda wants to see just how strong these frames are, with “stretching” and “folding” — terms perhaps lifted from Richard Serra’s “verb list” — as the driving force behind their conversion into “skeleton sculptures”. Mario D’Souza tackles classroom chairs and synthetic foam sheets of different thicknesses, which he squeezes or reshapes into cubes. The aggravated contrast between the rigidity of the tubular metal structure — often stripped of its wooden seat and back — and the pliancy of the foam sets us wondering about the habitual function of these materials in the designing of everyday objects.
Bursts of poetry
Use value is also given a hard time in works involving a form of poetic discrepancy. Rimbaud’s ’systematic derangement of all the senses’ and the marrying of two widely separated realities — those watchwords of the Surrealist aesthetic — are at the core of Magritte’s paintings and Frederik Kiesler’s environments. Here Katinka Bock’s gravity-defying Haltung associates basalt and oak in an odd table supported at only three points. The volcanic rock hung under the tabletop carries the same implicit menace as Victor Brauner’s Wolf Table, even if we sense an economy of means closer to that of Joseph Beuys. Other works trigger surprise by association : in Laurent Suchy’s wood and fabric La Colonne (The Column, 2009) the intimation of repose provided by the central decorative cushion makes it obvious that the column itself has no load-bearing function whatever. Suddenly, too, the domestic world becomes disturbing and talkative: the metal shelving of Alexandra Sá’s Frémissure (Quiverage, 2009) is hooked up to an electric motor programmed to make it move slightly, creaking eloquently all the while. This witty approach recurs in her Extension de banc (Bench Extension, 1998), in which the simple addition of some extra wood vanquishes our visual and social habits. In all these cases the materials seem driven by a inner life which, while unruly, is a lot more discreet than in the robot-like installations by Jason Rhoades and Malachi Farrell seen in exhibitions elsewhere. The same message emanates from Julien Pastor’s Etude pour une antenne personnelle (Study for a Personal Antenna, 2013), whose brass rods pick up electromagnetic waves and function as a transceiver when placed on the head of a strange guinea pig.
In his 1965 essay “Specific Objects” Donald Judd, noting that many of the works of his time could not be classified as either painting or sculpture, suggested the designation ’three-dimensional works’ for Frank Stella’s shaped canvases and Claes Oldenburg’s soft sculptures. Today the works of Jean-François Leroy and Nathalie Elemento seem just as difficult to pigeonhole. They elude our categories. For his Bureau des chutes n° 5 (Offcut Desk no. 5, 2009) Leroy heaps up or overlays coloured decorative materials — rolls of carpet, insulation — in a play on the same painting/sculpture ambiguity to be found in the well known installations of Stéphane Calais and Jessica Stockholder. Nathalie Elemento’s Decorum 2 (2005), a painted metal radiator you can hang clothes on, slips something disturbing into the genre as its slim lines gradually take on the look of a hand 130 centimetres high. And in her Série de petits emménagements (Little Moving-in Series, 2010) the same artist combines folding — also a feature of her metal sculptures — with the precision of ink outlines on paper. Introspective and emotionally attached to this house and its residents, the drawing breaks through the spatial boundaries of the paper into three- dimensionality.
Injecting fresh tension into artworks of the past is a gambit common to quite a few of the pieces in this exhibition and a foundational aspect of the Left Handed Rietveld Chair, inspired by one of the “key works” of the De Stijl movement. Made by a right-hander working left-handed and consequently much less “straight-edged” than Gerrit Rietveld’s original, Julien Berthier’s version has a limp look. In the wake of Sturtevant and of Mathieu Mercier’s white copy of the Hogestoel Chair, the artist is inquiring into the reproduction and conspicuous value of a given object once it becomes a cult item in the history of art or design.
A referencing of other celebrated modernist archetypes — architectural in this case and notably including Mies Van der Rohe’s German pavilion for the Universal Exposition in Barcelona in 1929 — is at the heart of Stéphanie Nava’s Pavillon Ludwig (Ludwig Pavilion, 2011): these three boards covered with architect’s plans and set on stilts seem at opposite poles from the accompanying mass of charred branches crawling across the floor. One detects a relationship here with Manuel Salvat’s Consolat 6, a model for a building set beneath a painting by Thomas Jocher. While Jocher’s vividly coloured landscape has been taken over by a tachist alien, the lopsided modern building has lost two of its stilts. An atmosphere of desolation. The solid block and its rigorously linear grid are on the verge of disappearing. The end of an era, maybe.
When the “Deconstructivism” of the early 1990s led some architects into battle against modernism and its flagship artefacts, the utopian notion of geometrical purity for objects and architecture — cf. Mondrian, Malevich, Le Corbusier — took a battering. Today, though, the quarrel between the constructors and the destroyers, the pure and the impure, has become meaningless, with artists finding themselves in both camps at the same time. In a reaction to the accelerating standardisation of our lives, tweaking and assemblage of materials rule supreme. Organised resistance to uniformity is cropping up pretty much everywhere. We are witnessing the creation of hybrid forms of uncertain use.
Opening Saturday, March 22, 2014 at 6 PM
Deux pièces meublées — Rencontre avec les artistes Meeting Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 4 PM
Deux pièces meublées — Déjeuner sur l’art Event Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 12:15 PM
Visit during lunch.
Deux pièces meublées — Cours d’histoire de l’art Lecture Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at 6 PM
A conference by Alexandra Fau in partnership with MAC/VAL and the Ecole d’arts plastiques (EMA).
59, rue Guy-Môquet
T. 01 43 91 15 33
Every day except Monday, 1:30 PM – 6 PM
Wednesday, 10 AM – noon / 1:30 PM – 6 PM