Saint-Nazaire, France

Dominique Figarella

Lieu International des formes émergentes

This exhibition, composed of forty-seven paintings made between 1992 and 2010, proposed neither a linear nor a chronological path through the work of Dominique Figarella. The challenge to interpretation was raised at the entrance, in the form of a small wooden panel covered entirely in pink chewing gum, stretched and stuck in every direction. Untitled, 2006, greeted the visitor by evoking the myriad directions of Figarella’s practice—the evocations of the body through metaphors of skin and mastication, as well as the questions raised by modernist composition, here in the guise of the Greenbergian allover, in which no traditional center or figure/ground relationship holds. Figarella’s work is situated in this in-between state, a tension ceaselessly replayed between idea and materiality, the conceptual and the retinal. Such tension is left deliberately unresolved, as in the painting Untitled, 2009, found at the far end of the exhibition space but not marking the end of an itinerary: a question mark spray-painted in gray on a grayish-white background, foggy and indeterminate. To get there, the visitor had to walk around L-shaped moldings arranged irregularly in the space. Taken together, they serve as frames for a decentered vision, rails in a sort of billiard game that the artist seems to have orchestrated for the gaze, creating multiple routes and rebounding paths between his works.

Four main types of production were in dialogue here: wooden panels, whose accidents Figarella goes over in pencil; works in which he articulates the wooden support, slabs of foam, and soft or Plexiglas objects; works in which he inserts language; and, finally, works where, through the intermediary of photographic mises en abyme, he shows the setup and the time it took to make the object. For the first type of piece, which the artist considers drawings, he uses panels that have received the traces of activities repeatedly executed in various work environments (studio, garage, office): all sorts of drips, stains, and notches—so many signs, their origins now indecipherable, that have been highlighted in pencil with painstaking concentration. Figarella thus demonstrates his attention to the raw material, to its history and its formal possibilities. The foam in some of the works of the second type is obtained in different stages of deterioration and then crushed, rolled, or enclosed within pieces of Plexiglas, which give them a particular curvature. Everything here has to do with placement in tension, action, reaction, and retroaction. Indeed, we might even call this tension violent, as suggested by the boxing gloves and antitheft devices that are also part of Figarella’s decidedly unconventional repertory of materials. Reflection and infinite regress, both recurring procedures, demonstrate the fundamental openness of this approach to painting that is oriented toward its realization, which the embedded photographs stage, rather than document, in a game of peekaboo. Typically, the artist deposits a large pool of paint onto two previously painted aluminum panels; he then photographs them at a certain angle to capture in their reflective surfaces the apparatus (projectors, cameramen) of the shot and to evoke its implications (between the world of film and the construction site). Finally, the wet paint is wiped away, forming the surfaces that will receive the printed photographs. The account of these operations may seem convoluted, but what emerges is a work that offers itself clearly and all at once to spectators, inviting them into the temporal unfolding and nonlinear process of making.

Guitemie Maldonado

Translated from French by Jeanine Herman