Critics’ Picks

View of “Xavier Veilhan,” 2011.

View of “Xavier Veilhan,” 2011.


Xavier Veilhan

Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo
5 Chome-7-5 Jingumae Louis Vuitton Omotesando Bldg. 7F
January 15–July 18, 2011

If Xavier Veilhan’s 2009 project for Versailles was an attempt at a visual deconstruction of reality, his solo debut in Tokyo is about the spatial metaphor of gaining altitude. The four sculptures in this show were inspired by the new exhibition space on the seventh floor of the Louis Vuitton building in the neighborhood of Omotesando. According to the artist, it was the sense of the space being suspended above the Tokyo skyline that gave him the ambitious idea of integrating literal weightlessness into the modernist canon, paying homage to Malevich, Calder, Brancusi, and Giacometti.

The centerpiece of the show is a large-scale mobile sculpture titled Regulator (all works 2011), which introduces one of the exhibition’s key ideas: Art can overcome gravity. The structure consists of a white steel frame (that matches the white steel frame of the windows) and an unpainted wooden construction with jointed arms that suspend matte black resin spheres. Mounted at the top of the structure is a fan that turns on at random intervals, allowing the wooden arms to extend and the centrifugal force to take over, transforming the static work into a kinetic showstopper.

The three oversize glass panels in Free Fall take suspension into the realm of the body: The pin-mounted paper silhouettes of the artist sandwiched between glass turn out to be stills from a short film he made while experiencing a free fall in a flight simulator. The image of a man plummeting through the air (or prostrate on the ground after the flight is over) brings up a more sinister association of Warhol’s 1963 silk screen Suicide, but the strong geometric focus of the two remaining sculptures in the show eschews any hint of emotional engagement. The way Veilhan inscribes people into his works is best revealed in his Constructivist-themed Tokyo Statue. It has a special sitting ledge that visually rhymes the schematized human figure at the top of the sculpture with the live person temporarily perched at its base. This arrangement suggests detachment—a live spectator rendered geometric through the inherent angularity of his or her necessarily rigid pose. Even if the humanism so central to the work of Brancusi and Giacometti is lost in translation, the show still exemplifies the perfect attitude for conceptualizing space and motion.