Vincent Fecteau, Untitled, 2011, gypsum cement, resin clay, acrylic paint, 16 x 24 x 23 5/8".

Vincent Fecteau, Untitled, 2011, gypsum cement, resin clay, acrylic paint, 16 x 24 x 23 5/8".

Vincent Fecteau

Vincent Fecteau, Untitled, 2011, gypsum cement, resin clay, acrylic paint, 16 x 24 x 23 5/8".

Among the new abstract sculptures in Vincent Fecteau’s exhibition in Berlin were the largest that the artist has made until now. They are even bigger than his wall-mounted works exhibited at greengrassi in London in 2010, but all of these new painted sculptures sat on pedestals––three smaller-scale ones (all Untitled, 2011, and previously shown at last year’s Whitney Biennial) on standard rectangular plinths and four larger ones (all Untitled, 2012) on tabletops. The materials—such as foamcore and cardboard—and manageable scale of Fecteau’s previous, similarly displayed works led them to be viewed as architectonic proposals with indeterminate functions and futures; these new works, by contrast, aspire to formal autonomy.

All of the works in this exhibition make positive and negative space into vehicles for compositional dynamism, curling masses around cavities and drawing shapes down to sheer planes that careen into facing surfaces or swerve around and out of view. Viewers discover such details as they circle around these sculptures, whose pedestals raise them above waist height but still below eye level. The artist’s colorful palette of matte acrylic paint does more than keep up with the spatial compositions; rather than delineating physical boundaries faithfully, a forest green might reach up only partway toward the edge of a plane before yielding along a clear-cut line to an expanse of deep purple, as in one of the four large works. Elsewhere, the contrast between bordering colors is more dramatic, as between the bright green and drab pink of one of the small works. Painted gestures also occasionally stand for themselves, as in a patch of yellow scumbled over black or discrete blackish brushstrokes laid atop a green ground.

Though the smaller works in this exhibition were cast in gypsum cement and then reworked with resin clay, new means for Fecteau, and the larger ones were made with papier-mâché, a material that he has been using for over ten years now, they exhibit only slight formal differences: The smaller works contain tighter curves and evenly rounded outgrowths. All of the constructions are of a similar design––full-bodied appendages twisted tightly in on themselves, leaving little breathing room in the form of broad openings or tunnels allowing views out the other side.

It is well known that Fecteau cuts, recomposes, and repaints his sculptures considerably over the course of months or years before displaying them, but the twists and turns of these forms ended up relentless and bulky. And the thick, mottled surface of paint covering each work cloaks any evidence of revision. Here, in contrast to Fecteau’s previous works, viewers will find less association with nameable, non-architectural forms and less compositional asymmetry. To the extent that the sculptures have outgrown their earlier proportions––those of mere propositions––they no longer depend on either the representation of other forms or the suggestion of future reproduction on a larger scale. They are uncompromising formal statements. And yet something has been lost with this development, since the earlier sculptures’ dependencies and inconsistencies were inseparable from their real strengths.

––John Beeson