Béatrice Balcou, Marion Baruch, stanley brouwn, André Cadere, Sol LeWitt, François Morellet, Daniel Steegmann Mangrané
The exhibition Structures of Radical Will, held in the Fondation CAB and curated by Béatrice Gross, has two art historical starting points. The first is the Primary Structures exposition and second is the book Styles of Radical Will. The title Structures of Radical Will reflects this merge.
Primary Structures was a groundbreaking exhibition, in the Jewish Museum in New York during the spring of 1966. The show consisted of sculptures from young American and British artists, at the time, who all shared the notion of minimalism. Styles of Radical Will on the other hand, is a collection of essays written by Susan Sontag in 1969. These texts were dedicated to the arts of her time: film, literature, pornography and politics.
Structures of Radical Will examines physicality with a focus on minimalism. Both creation and perception are not possible without the body, despite the fact that this body is often hollow and without content. The exhibition seeks to emphasize the influence that this body, in the shape of an artwork, has on the time and space in which its located. This all to demonstrate the critical and political scope that a work can possess.
Structures of Radical Will places pieces, mostly on loan from externals, from the sixties and seventies across contemporary artists and their more recent, in situ creations.
The exhibition is not only two-sided in its source of inspiration but also in its location: Structures of Radical Will is designed for the space of the Fondation CAB in Brussels as well as for the exhibition space in Saint-Paul de Vence. This double exposition strives to form a fictional bridge between these two sites of the Fondation CAB.
With the series Porteurs (Carriers) (2019-2020), it is precisely the residues of artistic materials that Béatrice Balcou (n. 1976, Tréguier, France) preserves and exhibits, encapsulated in glass objects reminiscent of relay sticks. Collected by specialist restorers as well as by Balcou herself from other artists, these remains of artworks, beyond secular relics, are above all witnesses – a little mysterious – of a community of care, this human chain at the service of creation, exhibition, reception and conservation of the artworks.
In the end, it’s the fundamental co-presence with the artwork and the circulation of gazes and images that Béatrice Balcou continuously stages with sobriety and accuracy. Since 2013, the series of performances Cérémonies sans titre (Untitled Ceremonies) consists of silently revealing the artwork of artists other than her own. From this performative corpus are born the works called “placebo”. Originally conceived as training tools for ceremonies, these wooden replicas of the source artworks have become artworks in their own right. Accompanied by their Impressions, mysterious photographic prints, the Placebos complete their attention-seeking endeavor. Through this triple trigger device, the artist questions the entire contemporary system of exhibiting art, for which she proposes to revitalize the experience.
Recently rediscovered artist whose production began in the 1950s includes painting, sculpture, installation art, performance and collective creation, Marion Baruch (b.1929, Timișoara, Romania) operates at the age of 80 in a new creative direction. Since 2012, in fact, she is interested in fabric scraps emanating from the textile industry. Faced against overconsumption and the excessive use of resources, Baruch constitutes a fluctuating geometry of revalorization. The found materials are selected with care; most often monochrome, always flexible, they are then simply pinned on the wall or suspended from the ceiling. At the beginning of the body of work, Baruch associated these ready-made sculpture-paintings with figures or references from art history that are dear to her. Over time, the artworks freely extend their evocative scope and certain installations become sprawling. Thus, Trajectoires (Trajectories) structure as much as they obstruct the space that welcomes them, offering through a game of voids and solids, a course of accidental beauty.
The same objective restraint and economy of means drive the work of stanley brouwn (b. 1935, Paramaribo, Suriname – d. 2017, Amsterdam, The Netherlands), equally concerned by the awareness of space and the bodies that roam within it. A central figure of the first generation of European conceptual artists, brouwn led from 1957 onwards a rigorous and demanding exploration of the experience of concrete and measurable reality. To do this, he adopts a radical position of subjective retreat: the artist refuses all iconographic, critical or biographical mediation of his work. For only the encounter of the work in the here and the now of the exhibition matters, architectural context included: a wooden structure, a sort of open cabin, underline here the angle of a wall, there the materials constituting a wall area are designated by a pencil drawing and a simple label.
Through a provocative pictorial-performative practice, André Cadere (b.1934, Warsaw, d. 1978, Paris) points towards traditional institutions of art as other places of possible domination and repression. Contesting the usual methods of visibility of the artworks and the power relations that result from them, this nomadic and protesting artist never ceased from 1970 onwards to infiltrate openings in galleries and museums, with a round bar of wood in hand. These essentially ex-situ artworks embody above all what the artists called an “unlimited painting”, whose cylindrical segments follow a system of mathematical permutation that an error deliberately disturbs each time. Aspect even more decisive, adds Cadere: “three-dimensional object of variable dimensions, the round bar of wood has neither top nor bottom, neither front nor back, neither beginning nor end”.
Perhaps surprisingly at first glance, Sol LeWitt’s (b. 1928, Hartford, CT, d. 2007, New-York, NY) permutation systems also rely on the existence of an acting body. In his case, it is not about a potential manipulation, nor of a single active observation, but at the very source of sublimation of the decomposition of movement, those accomplished by Eadweard Muybridge. From this chrono-photography published in Animal Locomotion (1887) that the pioneer of conceptual art discovers at the start of the 1950s, LeWitt retains the methodical deployment of an investigative narrative logic; his geometric variations are therefore to be grasped like so many “narratives of shapes”. And to the movement of the unrepresented body from this hallow genesis responds to that in action of the embodied and mobile gaze that navigates between 2 of the 122 ways imagined by LeWitt of not building a complete cube. The quest for comprehensiveness thus often drives the artist’s investigations, including when he proposes to exhaust the drawing material enclosed in a pack of Crayola. The 12 superimposed colors, applied in an order left to the discretion of the draftsperson, create then a compact and gleaming square whose texture in relief emphasizes the symbiosis between the wall surface and the chromatic matter.
The critique of the conventions of the concrete exhibition space and of an ungrounded autonomy of the work come to life with François Morellet (b. 1926 – d.2016, Cholet, France) with the adhesive grids that leave the confines of the painting or when he creates, inversely, “paintings in situation”: “vacant at last, (they) started living lives of their own, liberating themselves from the dictatorship of unconditional parallelism with the wall and the floor. It is true, this liberty stops quickly, either in the front of the diktat of a final errant straight line, or, as always, in front of rigorous, simple, obvious, precise, and absurd systems”. Quasi monochromes are positioned in unusual ways – over the edge of the wall, at an unwonted angle, directly on the ground; adhesive tapes deploy monumental grids or tilt the outline of architectural elements; in any case, Morellet mischievously plays on the fundamental norm of orthogonality. Thus, the iconoclast artist stages the collision between two logical systems, that of the presentation and that of the representation of the artwork.
Following geometric combinations influenced by intuition, Daniel Steegmann Mangrané’s Systemic Grids (screens) are deployed into vast networks of chiseled metal (the grids are laser cut). Begun in 2015, the series currently comprises around fifteen works drawn from more than 150 possibilities imagined by the artist. These variations of intersecting lines come from controlled movements of rotation and mirroring, of superposition or juxtaposition, which can evoke as much the modernist motif par excellence of the grid as the retinal effects of Op Art or the processes of cell growth. Suspended from the ceiling, adopting dimensions slightly greater than the human scale, these Systemic Grids offer to the perceiving body a rigorous and confusing immersive environment that structures and rhythms the exhibition space and its course.