André Fournelle

Centre D’Exposition Circa

Born of the quixotic context that begot the ’60s happening, André Fournelle’s antagonistic approach has evolved to include an iconoclastic personalized vocabulary of materials: neon, aluminum, glass, fire, and stone. In Fire in Your Cities, 1982, a large neon X was placed on the side of a building targeted for demolition. Later Fournelle lit a bonfire in the vacant lot, again in the shape of an X, and videotaped the event. Other documents included a blowup of a press clipping citing a member of Charles Manson’s clan commenting on construction activities in the immediate vicinity of their dwelling that read: “They’re always digging. Every day there is a new project going on. The more I feel this X, the more I am Xed out of it.” Fournelle’s project became a vehicle for expressing the endemic forces of alienation at work in modern society.

Here, in a work entitled Un coup de dès jamais n’abolira le hasard (Never will a throw of the dice abolish chance, 1987), a series of shotgun blasts was directed at his own installation, an eight-foot-high birdcage lit from within by 13 neon tubes and containing 13 live doves. Gradually, a more transcendent poetic element that had always been present in Fournelle’s work began to supersede the apparent ideological imperative of his art; images blended and the relation between vision and form coalesced.

His latest participatory installation, entitled Resecare (Navigating the cliffs, 1990), brings to mind Robert Morris’ works from the early ’70s, but its character is more narrative and autobiographical. Immediately prior to the exhibition, two of the pieces were suspended by steel cables from a bridge over the waters of the Lachine Canal in Montreal. As we step cautiously from metal plate to metal plate, the contours of which collectively form a map of England, we read a series of words and images. The first island has the word “Resecare” cut into it, the next “Naviguer” (Navigate), the third features a protruding wing, the fourth an iron fence that has been pushed outward by some external force, the fifth reads “Recifs” (Cliffs), and the final plate “Risque” (Risk). Looking in from outside the structure, and watching the pieces swing back and forth, we notice the muselike shadows the words from the plates cast on the floor beneath. It is as though the external steel columns that constitute the architectural element of the piece are locked in a kind of tensile battle with the interior, poetic components.

The second piece has a circle of terracotta in its center, smoothly modeled into a seascape in which eyes and ears are interspersed. The waves emanate from the center and two lines of flames burn continually, thus forming a cross that runs to the outer parameters of the piece. A circle of glass sections suspended from another heavy structural framework moves in and out, thereby repeating the concentric wavelike motion in the terra-cotta material. A smaller, third structure echoes the first. Fournelle’s morphological fragments, which are suspended and set within the architectural frameworks he has created, document the soul’s perilous journey through the uncomfortable technological landscape of today.

John K. Grande