Mathieu Mercier. (Reviews: New York)

By Wilson, Michael | Artforum International, January 2003 | Go to article overview

Mathieu Mercier. (Reviews: New York)


Wilson, Michael, Artforum International


SPENCER BROWNSTONE GALLERY

Mathieu Mercier's AAA, 2002, a backlit wall-mounted sign in which the title's three letters become smaller from left to right, looks like the scream of a cartoon character plunging off a cliff. The text's off-kilter font is a superimposition of two opposing styles: the hard-edged geometry characteristic of Theo van Doesburg and a flowing, fanciful script developed by New York typographer Edward Benguiat in the '70s. A strategically contrived hybrid of design philosophies, AAA is a succinct introduction to this young Parisian's practice and an appropriate piece to kick off his first solo show in New York.

In a looped digital video, Red and Blue Blast, 2002, the computer-generated image of a Rietvald chair glides in silently from stage right, only to burst suddenly into pieces as it nears the center of the screen. The conceit is childishly simple but immediately appealing (British viewers will be reminded of the much parodied animated logo for Channel 4 Television) and effectively emphasizes the fragility of De Stijl's original agenda, and the way any "pure" aesthetic ideal is doomed to collapse. Mercier is unabashedly nostalgic for the utopian foundations of early modernism: A gesture that would have been gleefully anarchic applied to a contemporary object seems here, after inducing an initial chuckle of surprise, oddly mournful. Sprouting in the center of the main gallery is Folding Lamp, 2002, an adjustable steel palm tree reaching from floor to ceiling and hooked up to a portable air compressor; the tree's five branches are attached to a series of fluorescent light tubes. Styled after a prop from a movie se t or operating theater, the work is a heavyweight piece of equipment haunted by the ghost of Malibu kitsch. Drum and Bass 2, 2002, is a three-dimensional Mondrian constructed from red plastic binders, blue storage bins, and yellow utility lights, all filed neatly away on a black shelving unit. …

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