Magazine article Artforum International

Xavier Veilhan

Magazine article Artforum International

Xavier Veilhan

Article excerpt

LE MAGASIN-CENTRE NATIONAL D'ART CONTEMP0RAIN, GRENOBLE

Xavier Veilhan is an inventor of inventions, an artist-engineer who seeks the split second just after creation, the fragile moment of hesitation when anything is possible. He seeks the instance of the prototype. Take his recent solo show at Le Magasin, which featured La Ford T, 1997-99, a sculptural partial reconstruction of the Ford Model T. Moving back and forth on a metal rail that calls to mind assembly lines, La Ford T consists only of the car's frame, steering mechanism, wheels, and motor; it is a blueprint, an outline--a calculated mix of industrial prototype and Minimalist sculpture.

On view as well was Le Tour (The potter's wheel), 1996, a scooter that can operate a pottery wheel, as well as La Tour Eiffel, a digital image of two men dressed in nineteenth-century garb, maps in hand, facing an Eiffel Tower that has either broken in two or has yet to be constructed. The bicycles in Les Velos (The bicycles), 2000, also seem to be in the early stages of some strange experiment: The first is whole, the second has no brakes, and the third is nothing but a frame mounted on tires, with no pedals. An absurd bricolage, a game of deconstruction: As artist and engineer, Veilhan salvages cultural products, such as the mountain bike (which is voguish in France), dismantles them, and returns them to their imaginary beginnings.

Veilhan's oeuvre is as strong as that of almost any young French artist working today. In is quite legible, even if this fact is at times masked by the diversity of his protean, multicolored, often spectacular work, which integrates painting, machine, sculpture, and installation. Working with curators Yves Aupetitallot and Lionel Bovier, the artist decided against mounting a retrospective in Grenoble. In one sense, that's a shame: One might lament the absence of works like Le Feu (The fire), 1996, a long fireplace around which visitors can sit and a shining example of the "relational aesthetic" developed by curator and critic Nicolas Bourriaud, or the enormous red rhinoceros made of polyester resin that Veilhan showed last year in the window of Yves Saint Laurent in New York. But the elimination of these pieces also enables the gaze to be renewed: Veilhan's mixing of early and later works, some made quite recently, traces his main themes, allowing the complexity of his formal constructions to emerge. …

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