Paris

Claude Lévêque

Kamel Mennour | Rue Saint-André des Arts

The works of Claude Lévêque, installations based on everyday objects, can be easily described. For instance, Deviation (all works 2008): a shelter made of thirty-two car hoods in which a Venetian-style chandelier glows; or Untitled, which was suspended from the ceiling of the gallery: various objects (two children’s scooters, linked together, two walkers subjected to the same fate, a wooden pantry containing two tiaras) rotating in front of a white nylon veil that is raised by a breeze produced by a fan, to a sound track derived from a looped sample of “Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones. This literalism is the condition for an experience that is in the first place physical, as the visitor is invited to measure himself by the works; the spaces created and objects used address his body through absence (they are empty and abandoned) and synecdoche—articles of personal adornment or use stand in for parts of the body or its movements. But we cannot neglect the metaphorical dimension of the objects and situations, which give the experience an emotional charge: the contrast between feelings of security and claustrophobia produced by the meagerness of a shelter that is a sort of post–industrial era belly of the whale; our amusement or disquiet in the face of these hanging objects and in this space that suggests the world of Marcel Duchamp or, perhaps, of David Lynch. “Welcome to Suicide Park,” the title of the exhibition, sums up fairly well the tensions that traverse these objects—objects that are festive as well as unsettling, that evoke wealth and poverty, superfluity and need—a cohabitation evoking the contradictions that deplete (or nourish?) contemporary society, where everything can be displayed and sold.

Surely the most remarkable piece in the exhibition, Untitled is made up of fourteen sheets of lead cut to the dimensions of a human body and soberly framed; at eye level they bear the traces of having been punched. The imprints of fingers give the impression of a body still lurking in the material—one thinks of the old idea of the form contained in the block to be sculpted; ready to strike, this imaginary body forces the viewer into a bare-knuckle, face-to-face confrontation. The lead got these marks by being beaten by amateur boxers, but it looks as if it has been decorated with motifs that, in their implications of movement, evoke Yves Klein’s Anthropométries or the Futurists’ lines of force. We might also think of Henri Matisse’s Dos (Backs), despite everything that separates those works’ hieratic classicism from the still-contained violence of the blows orchestrated by Lévêque. These are equal to the blows delivered by society, to the powerless rage they generate among those constantly subjected to them, who have only their hands for wealth and weapons. And if we remember that most boxers and their fans come from the working class, we can see in this luxurious exhibition space the metaphor for a new class struggle. And why not?

Guitemie Maldonado