Critics’ Picks

Pascal Vonlanthen, Untitled (Seulemnt FR 970), 2014, felt-tip pen on colored paper, 24 x 18".

Pascal Vonlanthen, Untitled (Seulemnt FR 970), 2014, felt-tip pen on colored paper, 24 x 18".


Pascal Vonlanthen

Fri Art
Petites-Rames 22
September 5–October 25, 2015

Pascal Vonlanthen’s output accomplishes a contradiction: layered references to the analytic practices of concrete poetry, conceptual writing, and geometric abstraction, all produced intuitively. To begin with, Untitled (LALIBERTE), (all works 2014), made from Vonlanthen’s own handwriting using color markers and pen on paper, is a copy of a front page taken from the Fribourg newspaper La Liberté. While appropriation of media clippings and oscillating between the genres of fiction and art has a well-established history, these works on paper or cardboard—residing somewhere between drawing and writing—emphasize the materiality of text by caricaturing traditional grammar and syntax.

Swiss linguist Vincent Capt notes in the exhibition catalogue that Vonlanthen has long been an active member of Fribourg’s CREAHM, a shared studio that facilitates workshops and shows for artists with mental disabilities. Also, Vonlanthen does not read either French or German, the two major regional languages here, and so the artist’s engagement with news media becomes a purely graphic one, as demonstrated in Untitled (Seulemnt FR 970), where a cursive, longhand inscription of “Seulement 9.70” (“Only 9.70”) leading from a magazine advertising page quickly morphs into successive inscriptions of the letter a in alternating red, black, green, and yellow marker ink. Depending on one’s proximity to the drawings, what may at first seem like renderings of color blocks become complex systems of words, letters, and signs, in a critique of the conventions of reading and viewing.