OVERVIEWNOV 27 to JAN 12Solo Exhibition
- Solo Exhibition
- Emerging Artists
Dates and Opening hoursNOV 27, 2012 to JAN 12, 2013
"UPRIGHT" by Patrick Javault, november 2012
With this rather diverse assemblage of pieces, Mathieu Mercier has composed an exhibition that sheds new light on his work. The grey columns, which first catch the viewer's attention, congregate around the only real column (cased and painted in the same color for the occasion), undermining its authority. These are in fact PVC pipes in every available format. Where the usual rule of thumb for exhibitors is to ignore or work around any obstacles forced upon them by a building, here the artist multiplies these obstacles and brings architecture into play. This reminder of Asher's or Buren's institutional critique takes the form of a de-realizing image rather than that of a manifesto or radical gesture.
In a kind of Beaubourg effect applied to an Haussmann-style apartment, this opening trick comes with a ceiling made visible by the architects, giving it a strong presence in an exhibition to which it is directly connected. Another effect of these makeshift columns is to bring out the architectural dimension of the large "photographic" triptych, windows of sorts divided by a vertical bar.
Mathieu Mercier's series of scans applies the modernist demand for transparency and self-reflexivity to the letter. For lack of documents, the glass of the scanner has captured the visible part of the machine, adorned with motifs. The triptych, which reveals a writing in dust, is a frozen example of painting-photograph in an era when learning about works of art takes place as much on digital tablets or in JPEG as through direct experience. The two sides of the glass come together on the single plane of the image, the look of the machine is also a backdrop, and photography comes close to X-rays. Photography, and more generally the making of images, is in fact one of the threads running through the exhibition.
Making a shirt just to dress a structure akin to Malevich's architectons, thereby causing a kind of caricatural figure to appear, is more than just strange: it is slightly disturbing. From that standpoint, architecture is compared to the body, but this way of dressing an abstract ideal, a symbol of utopias, may also evoke the way a corpse could be dressed. This last idea would be in keeping with Last Day Bed, a Japanese-inspired couch and a minimalist grave at once. Add to these elements the photo-hat that has found its way to the top of the wall or the mauve flower doubly flattened by the scan and the Pantone color matching system, and this room, designed as a play with lines, becomes a space of meditation on moments in the life of man and the passing of time.
The static and austere quality of this first room finds its counterpart in the dynamism of the next one, which borrows from Constructivism and Op Art. This second room is also the place for encounters and metamorphoses. Despite an apparent opposition, mutual references between these two spaces are multiple: the thick grey roll slumped in a corner is a nod to the columns, the alarm clock and the flower are equally subject to a measuring instrument, the idea of waking up brings us back to Last Day Bed, the lines distorted by the glasses of water placed in front of them point to the pattern of the hat distorted by the lens, the belt suggesting a Möbius band also evokes the structure dressed in a shirt, and this structure in turn evokes the mural relief freely inspired by El Lissitzky's Prouns...
Sans titre (Cocotte) captures the encounter on a black tray of a genuine paper hen and folded paper looking like the bellows of a camera, sightly bent and off-center with respect to the axis of an imaginary lens. This staging brings to mind the small theaters of futuristic objects as well as Man Ray's theaters, but both folded pieces could also have jumped out of a pop-up book. The relation remains unresolved between an open volume that could be used in the making of images and paper taking on life.
As he puts together the encounter between a half-full glass placed on a plane of horizontal, vertical or oblique stripes and before a backdrop of oblique stripes, the artist appears to take as his models books featuring amusing experiments rather than the formal experimentation of avant-gardes. Op Art motifs, which are often associated with exploring the senses and even unsettling them, thus find their origin in a flatness of vision and produce a feeling of dull cheerfulness. Another simple instance of these drifts is a work made of cut paper displaying extreme orthodoxy as an artistic construction, but which produces a magnifying effect, an illusion due to a slight chromatic difference. The mind recognizes flat tints and construction, yet the eye stubbornly wants to see some form of enlargement in it.
The success of an exhibition's layout, the fruit of calculation, intuition or discovery (or all three), partly has to do with these moments when isolated pieces make up their own space together or enter into a dialog. Seen against the wall, three square-section strips of wood radiate in a star pattern, with a ball of a different diameter and color attached to each of them, seemingly suspended in their movement: this art stands halfway between construction and juggling. Echoing this piece is a very stylized little man: lengths of wood tied with twisted wire sheathed with red plastic and forming a loop at one end. In front of these bent wooden legs is a plaster block hollowed out by hand, which rests on two other lengths of wood. It is the cast of a plastic bag whose creases can be seen. As the plaster set, the bag was hollowed out by hand. The materials and general aspects in the construction of a body are enough to make a vision come out of the sculptor's studio, be it the vision of a process or that of a destruction. The void of the belt responds to these legs without a trunk, tied with a wire-this absence of the body. The coda to the exhibition is like the dynamic and comical version of the structure dressed in a shirt.
In the way he makes the slight variations of reality visible or appropriates the masterpieces of modernism to make them speak, Mathieu Mercier is as close to the Surrealist spirit as ever. More than an itinerary, the works presented here epitomize his activity through leaps, shocks, but also open intervals.
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