Raphaël Zarka — Les Prismatiques
Past: April 14 → May 26, 2012
A number of themes crucial to Raphaël Zarka’s work come together in the exhibition Les Prismatiques : his interest for geometry, the transposition of elements from the world of painting to the world of sculpture, the construction of a body of forms developed on the model of a collection. Already present in a number of the artist’s previous works over the past few years, the shape around which this exhibition is centred — a prism whose base resembles a truncated right angled triangle — is taken directly from a little wooden object, a stretcher key, used by painters to adjust the tension of their canvases. Here it is used as a unit from which, through many permutations, emerge a series of sculptures and drawings.
The units which make up the three sculptures shown in the exhibition, were cut from identically sized blocks of oak, each time cut in the same way with one single slice. For each of the works 12 or 16 differently organised elements combine to create a specific configuration as with a game of building blocks. We are reminded particularly of Tangram, the ancient Chinese puzzle in which geometric pieces are juxtaposed to create figurative forms. As with one of the artist’s other series using the same type of wood, Les Billes de Sharp (2008), Les Prismatiques play with the uniformity of how the wood is cut and the random structural lines of the wood.
The collection of ink drawings which accompany the sculptures seem to have the contradictory double status of prefiguring and prolonging, standing both as preparatory drawings and a logical development of the series. They show other possible configurations of the stretcher key and evoke many potential sculptures, suggesting that what we see in the exhibition is only a fragment of a much vaster series of permutations. Created using a type of perspective and colours which call to mind the Italian Primitives, they pick up the ancient conception of the drawing as designo : a drawing as much as a design, not only a sketch but also a detailed plan before its materialisation.
The third element of the exhibition is a series of black and white images from a collection which Raphaël Zarka has been developing over a number of years. Taken from a field of references of various contexts, the works, although predating Les Prismatiques could almost have emerged from them. The Grotticelli Necropolis, the alter installed in Weimar by Goethe for his friend Charlotte von Stein, the stellations of Max Bruckner and the portrait of Abraham Sharp are all linked by the presence in each of the images of a combination of geometric forms. Presented in counterpoint with Les Prismatiques, these constructions highlight different aspects of sculpture and drawing : the question of prisms, moduli, series, permutations, the plith etc. They equally demonstrate the way in which, for Raphaël Zarka, geometric shapes represent the visible manifestations of an underground network which transcends both time and space.