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The sculptural riddles of Vincent Fecteau: What, exactly, do you see?

The sculptural riddles of Vincent Fecteau: What, exactly, do you see?
Untitled work by Vincent Fecteau, 2016. Papier-mâché, acrylic paint, rope and cardboard, 22.25 inches by 47.5 inches by 21 inches. (Vincent Fecteau and Matthew Marks Gallery)

At a time when we streamline and oversimplify messages into tweets, it’s exhilarating to come across the five untitled sculptures and five untitled collages in Vincent Fecteau’s untitled exhibition at Matthew Marks Gallery. Each of the San Francisco-based artist’s works is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

Fecteau’s nearly monochromatic sculptures look like the offspring of works by Henry Moore and Donald Judd. The curves and crannies of the former combine with the angular austerity of the latter in ways that make no sense logically but work visually — often beautifully.

Vincent Fecteau at Matthew Marks Gallery
Untitled work by Vincent Fecteau, 2016. Papier-mâché and acrylic paint, 24-5/8 inches by 57-1/2 inches by 16 inches. Vincent Fecteau and Matthew Marks Gallery

Size matters, but not in ways you’d expect. Resting horizontally on individual pedestals, Fecteau’s 3-D abstractions are pint-sized versions of typical works by Moore and Judd. The diminutive renditions are too small to go toe-to-toe with their forebears yet too big to be models or maquettes.

From a distance, each appears to be made of bronze or steel. From up close, you see that Fecteau has used papier-mâché, cardboard, rope, ribbon and acrylic paint. More common to grade-school arts and crafts projects than to modern industrial production — and 20th century sculpture — his materials make his art more accessible, even user-friendly.

His collages, no bigger than a phone or tablet, bring images into the mix. But his cut-and-paste depictions of various household items provide few clues as to what his works might mean. Instead, they intensify the irresolution at the heart of his art, whose taut compositions amplify their indecipherability.

Vincent Fecteau at Matthew Marks Gallery
Untitled work by Vincent Fecteau, 2014. Mixed-media collage, 4.25 inches by 14.25 inches by half an inch. Vincent Fecteau and Matthew Marks Gallery

To circumnavigate one brown sculpture is to feel as if you are looking at a farming tool, a Picasso portrait, the stage set for an avant-garde play and, finally, a cartoon character. To walk around a black sculpture with soft yellow highlights is to see the facade of a house, a ship’s anchor, the silhouette of the screaming figure in Munch’s famous painting and a Lynn Chadwick sculpture.

A coherent story line is nowhere to be found. Connecting the dots is pointless. Certainty falls by the wayside. Knowledge is not all it’s cracked up to be.

In the core of your being, Fecteau fuels the conflict between wanting to know something and knowing that there is nothing to know.

That may be maddening. But it’s also profoundly satisfying — and, more often than not, true.

Vincent Fecteau at Matthew Marks Gallery
Untitled work by Vincent Fecteau, 2014. Mixed-media collage, 10 inches by 8 inches by 1.5 inches. Vincent Fecteau and Matthew Marks Gallery

Matthew Marks Gallery, 1062 N. Orange Grove, L.A. Through Sept. 29; closed Sundays and Mondays. (323) 654-1830, www.matthewmarks.com

See all of our latest arts news and reviews at latimes.com/arts.

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