Exhibitions and Fairs

Patrick Carpentier,“A Short Term Effect, An Echo”

Galeria MLF | Marie-Laure Fleisch, Brussels

11 Jan – 16 Feb 2019Rue Saint-Georges 131050 Bruxelles, Belgium

“Simplicity is not an end in art, but we usually arrive at simplicity as we approach the true sense of things.” So said Brancusi when asked why his sculptures seemed so basic, and why they appeared to eschew all detail previously associated with the medium.

It could be argued that Carpentier has also adopted this dictum, crystallising a few seminal ideas from the greatest hits of twentieth century sculpture and rendering his own version(s) of this lineage The clue is in the title of the show, embodying it in a few distinct groups of works arrayed over two floors of Galeria MLF Marie-Laure Fleisch in Brussels. Titled “A Short Term Effect, an Echo”, whereby ‘echo’ seems to be the most operative element, the exhibition distils numerous recognisable traits of modern and modernist sculptural practice throughout and shows a few distinct group of works in which recurrent materials and motifs occur within each.

In the main gallery the space is populated principally by a group of ceramic sculptures, large in size and implying the average scale of the human form. Consisting of drum-like earthenware cylinders in varying combinations of vertical stacks, channelling influences as diverse as Brancusi and Joel Shapiro, their compositions also seem vaguely anthropomorphic.

Their arrangement in the space describes a relational attitude both to each other and the viewer, who is thus encouraged to move around and among them. Their individuation, personification even, derives from their differing postures and the possible suggestion of attitude: here a lean, there a cocked ‘head’, perhaps a hint of reticence or swagger. The ceramic surfaces possess subtly different glazes each with nuanced characteristics. They are beautifully tactile and tempting to touch, gently pocked and textured with the organic earthiness of their material, with each further distinguished and differentiated from the others by the nuance of their surface glaze and texture. Brancusi’s oeuvre was also characterised by the production of multiple iterations of the same theme or piece, integrating the base as part of the work itself. Carpentier follows this lead with plinths of unfinished mdf, lending the overall arrangement a warm and natural feel.

In a smaller ante room, the modular feel of the ceramic elements is further developed, and a play on scale unfolds in table top arrangements of smaller works. The slick hand-made execution prevails, whilst differentiation subtly abounds whether the surface is raw and unfinished, or if glaze is employed, and the type and tone of such.

In the same room the visitor is introduced to another body of work, related to the stacked sculptural practice. If the sculptures appear inspired by early twentieth century art’s fascination with primitivism and ethnographic art, the collages shown here confirm it. Various textbook photographs of Brancusi’s sculptures are cut precisely and pasted meticulously together, so that a totemic mash-up of various different works is posited as a single entity. Like an exercise in cadaver exquis, truncated layer-segments of Brancusi’s most iconic works become modular blocks, arranged in differing permutations from one work to the next. This mix and match assemblage feel is furthered by the sheet glass each is displayed behind. Variously tinted in delicate hues of smoky grey, sky blue or warm taupe, the coloration allows for a tonal range, both literally and figuratively¨, and adds a sculptural component to an otherwise pictorial work.

Two further types are shown. The first kind, of which there are two, consist of a grid of brightly coloured powder-coated rectangular trays displayed on the ground. Echoing the modernist grid and the ‘specific object’ par excellence, the works channel exemplars like Judd’s Lascaux works and Andre’s floor pieces, embodying a hybridised form of both as a single minimalist archetype. One of the works is placed centrally in the main gallery space where it contrasts jarringly with the earthy sculpture totems it is juxtaposed. The other is placed outside in a small courtyard at the rear, where the consequent accumulation of rainwater, leaves and other outdoor detritus transforms the work into a vessel of sorts and distances it from the pristine white cube aesthetic, or more playfully still, a compare and contrast exercise that treads the high/low line dividing the indoor sculpture from its outdoor birdbath counterpart.

The final group echoes the spirit of assemblage in the most literal way. Diverse materials such as wooden logs, bricks and antlers are cobbled together in pleasingly anarchic arrangements, although of course this Rauschenbergian trait is a sufficiently venerable one that anarchic connotations have long since been stripped away. Instead, the vestige of the idea remains, refreshed by a coat of thick white paint over every surface that unifies the constituents into a single homogenous whole.

Carpentier has repurposed the constituent elements of various historical typologies with levity and wit to form a cogent referential play. The work groupings inform and support each other, whilst overall the show presents familiar themes as though packaged for view under a generalised pop culture umbrella. The effect is neither pastiche, nor overly earnest, and leaves the visitor feeling convinced that the artist is in full charge of both his ideas and materials.


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