Critics’ Picks

View of “Ernesto Sartori,” 2015–16.

View of “Ernesto Sartori,” 2015–16.


Ernesto Sartori

Marcelle Alix
4 rue Jouye-Rouve
November 12, 2015–January 30, 2016

Sharing a sickly, bloodless pastel palette, as if from a world whose vital fluids have been drained by some vampiric force, Ernesto Sartori’s gouache pictures and low-lying polychrome painted sculptures seem to refer to something, but you can’t locate the source. The sculptures, irregular agglomerations of platforms and smaller rectilinear volumes, hover strangely between functions, somehow not quite furniture, models, or architecture. With mismatched planes and unfinished plaster, the edges refuse to align flush, instead jutting out into odd facets. The novelty of their surface effects is complicated by the enigma of what lies beneath. A multitude of recesses and apertures undo the geometric regularity of the platforms, so that the sculptures are not exclusively about presentation but also about hiding, storage—concealment.

All of this could be twee. But the longer one remains with the works, the more unheimlich they feel. There’s a slippery logic to the artist’s alliterative use of language, with the repetition of the root “ort” moving from the title of the painting Espace orteil, 2014–15, which proposes a “toe-space” in French, to the Italian “another garden” of his sculpture series “Un’ altro orto,” 2015, from which the German “Ort,” or “place,” might be extrapolated. Colorful everyday things are displayed on the miniature, field-like “Un’ altro orto” sculptures. Various household utensils and accessories—twine, tape, chalk, slippers, a coil hose—seem available to be picked up and used, so that this space of play and experimentation transmogrifies into a kind of kindergarten. But, although the display is low to the ground, it is not necessarily for children. Sartori casts us, like Gulliver, into a Lilliputian world that defamiliarizes mundane objects so that they might be formed anew.