March 15 - April 26
Chris Evans taps the full potential of art’s imaginative and narrative capacities by positioning the French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat as the ideological counterpart to the Marquis de Sade in two very different sets of roles: as scientists in a parablelike futuristic scenario set in the Texas desert and as eponyms in the branding of two competing luxury liquor labels.
In Peter Weiss’s famous 1964 play, Marat/Sade (which provides dialogue quoted in the exhibition’s title), the two men take sides in an unsettled philosophical dispute that pits enforced universal morals and belief in social change against ethical egoism and freedom through individual transgression. In an homage to Weiss’s play, Evans coauthored a screenplay for a science-fiction film with curator and critic Will Bradley, in which two medical scientists debate their conflicting treatment methods for an inexplicable epidemic of blindness. Only the opening scene of the film is realized, projected on the wall next to booklets containing the entire screenplay. With shots of the desert, and of the Marat-aligned scientist listening to a recorded polemic of the Sade-aligned scientist, the film segment conveys an apocalyptic atmosphere.
A letter and a photo document Evans’s proposal to a French Champagne vintner to launch a product line in honor of Marat. The branding would provide the opportunity to reposition collectivism against individualism in the commercial realm, argues Evans, since a rival company already markets a Marquis de Sade Champagne. A sculpture, whose form recalls a carafe with a red-painted neck, attached to a drooping quill, references Jacques-Louis David’s famous painting of Marat assassinated in the bathtub. With the sculpture, Evans may well be suggesting a logo for his proposed product line.
A similar proposal to a courthouse in San Antonio is presented in the form of airbrushed paint on framed glass, positioned like a room divider in the middle of the gallery space. Both ventures recall Evans’s previous projects, often social experiments triggered by exchanges from different professional contexts. Consistent with this earlier work, the current show displays the British artist's refreshingly experimental yet conceptually precise drive.