Gennevilliers, France

Daniel Dewar and Grégory Gicquel

École Municipale des Beaux-Arts

On the outskirts of Paris, in Gennevilliers, a UFO has crash-landed: a gigantic S/M manta ray, all studded and jagged, in a tangle of piercings, black rubber, sharp metal, and silicone messily applied with a spatula. A menacing nightmare with a strange and foreign beauty conceived by the Nantes/Paris duo Daniel Dewar and Grégory Gicquel. These two, both barely thirty, have erected the homemade into a methodology whose results are always perfect—painstakingly measured and finely tuned. Some of their early pieces, from 2002, resembled handcrafted readymades, carbon copies of Nike tennis shoes or BMX bike frames, whose aesthetic was somewhere between that of a neighborhood hardware store and an aisle full of glossy products from a multinational chain. There were electric guitars, too (but made of wood), as well as skateboards and motorcycle helmets in the Arts and Crafts style. In this workshop logic, they humorously repudiate the Duchampian notion of the readymade, which gives the artist the role of naming; their production reintroduces the “handmade” and all its attendant artistic know-how right back into the heart of the industrial chain.

Since then, while they have continued to produce semifigurative objects, like the wrought iron golf club, Big Bertha (all works 2006), also shown at Gennevilliers, which leans against a fireplace and, thus positioned, takes on the appearance of a poker, their sculptures have generally taken a more mysterious, almost Surrealist turn. While the fabrication process remains the same (they never balk at getting their hands dirty, testing out ceramics, wood, resin, even stone), it is no longer at the forefront. These days, they serve their bizarre and composite works raw, for instance the disproportionately large necklace made of turquoise ceramic beads and the charred wooden motorcycle helmets in The Hairdresser’s Birthday Treat, or the kitschy wood carving of an Austin Mini stuck in a gigantic seashell in Cocoa Turismo. “Is this ethnic art brut another monstrous effect of a savage globalization?” asked the French art critic Emilie Renard in a press release for “Hyperstyle,” a group show she organized at Loop in Berlin in 2004, in which Dewar and Gicquel took part. The question is hard to answer, since their work seems to elude categorization, or even periodization. Master builders of a hybrid, plastic universe that is at once exotic, aquatic, decorative, and ethnic, the wild duo of Dewar and Gicquel are bringing still life, and in particular the vanitas genre, into sculpture, and thereby helping to reinvent the medium. You might say they offer a third way into sculpture, which is certainly in vogue today but somewhat stuck between a melancholic hyperrealism (Ron Mueck) and a lavish, sometimes flashy Pop minimalism (Gary Webb, Jim Lambie). With Dewar and Gicquel, by contrast, form (despite being ultraseductive) is never vacant but opens the door to other stories, even the craziest ones.

Claire Moulène

Translated from French by Jeanine Herman.