United States of America
Since the mid-1990s Vincent Fecteau has developed a unique body of abstract sculptures that emphasize formal principles of volume, plane and surface, while also remaining highly allusive – variously evoking the forms of modernist painting, machine parts, architecture or the body. Fecteau was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 2016 and has an impressive exhibition history in the United States and Europe. Notably, he has exhibited in two iterations of the Whitney Biennial (2002 and 2012) and his works have been included in important exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Haus der Kunst, Munich; Kunsthalle, Basel; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Art Institute of Chicago; and the Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis.
For Fecteau, sculpture is about the relationship between a person and an object. He considers it a particularly vital mode of contemporary art production because of the vastly different type of visual experience it offers in comparison to the ubiquitous flat screen. While Fecteau’s objects may be completely static, they contain a seemingly endless number of forms, and corresponding visual associations, depending on the perspective of the viewer. In Untitled 2016 we see the artist’s remarkable ability to shift effortlessly from one formal, spatial logic to the next. The work actively coaxes the viewer to move around it, to look in and even through it, in order to make sense of its complex forms.
Viewed from a short side it appears to be a slender, elegant, closed form. The two long sides, however, strongly assert themselves in the space: one suggests an accordion like structure compressed by a massive weight; while the other reveals a network of internal spaces and handle forms, evoking a piece of industrial equipment – both of which belie the fact that the work is made from papier mâché. Discussing this interplay between the overall abstract form of a sculpture and the associative potential of particular views of it, Fecteau wrote to fellow artist Phyllida Barlow in 2014: “I long for the form that exists free of so-called understanding and that operates in a purely abstract, maybe unconscious way. Yet this utopian desire hinges on an idea of abstraction that not only might be impossible, but in the end, might even be undesirable.” The work’s deep blue, completely matte surface also adds to its overall sense of mystery and ambiguity. In fact, for Fecteau ambiguity is not just a formal strategy but, as argued in the exhibition text for his presentation at Secession in 2016, “the true subject of the works and the anchor of their social and political dimension.”