Paris

Laure Prouvost, Maquette for Grand Dad’s Visitor Center, 2014, mirrors, wood, metal, wire, soil, foam, plaster, glass, taxidermied fox, video screens, 57 1/8 × 114 1/8 × 43 1/4".

Laure Prouvost, Maquette for Grand Dad’s Visitor Center, 2014, mirrors, wood, metal, wire, soil, foam, plaster, glass, taxidermied fox, video screens, 57 1/8 × 114 1/8 × 43 1/4".

Laure Prouvost

Galerie Nathalie Obadia | Rue du Bourg Tibourg

Laure Prouvost, Maquette for Grand Dad’s Visitor Center, 2014, mirrors, wood, metal, wire, soil, foam, plaster, glass, taxidermied fox, video screens, 57 1/8 × 114 1/8 × 43 1/4".

Smeared with mud, Laure Prouvost’s letter of invitation for her exhibition “This is the visit” announced a tea party and an evening of “fond- razing” for her Grand Dad, described elsewhere as “a very close friend of Kurt Schwitters” who is still lost in the tunnel he’s been digging to Africa from his ramshackle cabin in England’s Lake District. At the opening, a waiter cheerfully offered “thé à la gin” in floral flea-market china—tepid Earl Gray spiked with booze. The works were linked by a low, dark-brown platform, a kind of stage for the viewer to walk on. An early video, Burrow Me, 2009, introduced elements of the family drama, distilling Prouvost’s ongoing concern with language, video, and storytelling. But at the core of the show were new works in installation, painting, and video, including two of Grand Ma’s tapestries and a maquette of “the museum we will build when Grand Dad comes out of the tunnel.”

Made from wire mesh, straw, dirt, broken bits of mirror, and a baby-blue water-park-style tube spiraling over a ceramic teapot, Maquette for Grand Dad’s Visitor Center, 2014, looks like a comedic conflation of Frank Gehry’s new ballooning glass building for the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris and Renzo Piano’s recent London skyscraper, the Shard, formerly London Bridge Tower. Inside Prouvost’s structure, not far from a taxidermied fox, a small black-and-white sign indicates the location of THE KARAOKE ROOM, TO SING ALONG WITH GRANDMA’S FAVOURITE SONG—the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams,” which was playing on loop. Her design was optimistic and pragmatic. Another sign explained that PARKING SPACE FOR MORE THAN 400 CARS AND 200 BUSSES would be just out front.

The panoramic tapestry Since he is gone, weaved by Grand Ma, 2014, recalls the interior landscape of Grand Dad’s cabin, presented in Prouvost’s recent video and installation Wantee, 2013. The project, commissioned by Grizedale Arts and Tate Britain, was as much inspired by Schwitters’s Lake District Merzbau—or rather, Merz Barn, the artist’s last, unfinished, total environment—as by “Wantee,” his patronizing nickname for his English companion Edith Thomas, derived from her habit of asking the exiled artist if he “wanted tea.” Legible from left to right, the chaotic landscape of the tapestry describes three key scenes of Grand Dad’s ongoing narrative. First, he and Grand Ma are seen together in their teapot-filled cabin; then Grand Dad plunges down his tunnel, which resembles the spout of a gigantic porcelain tea service. At the far end, the modernist Visitor Center, in its splendidly spiked glory, rises from the earth. A projector propped on an open package of fresh clay illuminated specific points of the tapestry: Woven light fixtures and a cluster of palms glowed with a warm halo of light, and a blank television screen was cast with a loop of tropical beach scenes. As a sort of heraldic image, the smaller tapestry, There will be planes serving tea, 2014, features a long-haul jet with a tanker-size teapot attached, gently tilted, at its tail.

As in her museum model, Prouvost’s white-lettered black signs dotted the walls of the exhibition. Realized with the cool precision of On Kawara, they reveal a level of anxiety and an unease with the white cube, not to mention the unspoken worry that Grand Dad might just have been digging his own grave. IDEALLY HERE THE ROOM WOULD BE SUPER MODERN WITH SHARP ANGLES FULL OF MIRRORS AND WINDOWS read one of Prouvost’s signs (all 2014). At the door, she posted IDEALLY THESE WORDS WOULD TAKE YOU DEEPER. French, but a resident of the UK for more than a decade, Prouvost plays with language and translation, accent and spelling; a Gallic sense of humor tests the limits of Anglo-Saxon etiquette. Her exuberant and abundant use of material is balanced by the earnestness of her storytelling and her dedication to making. She’s been talking about her grandparents for years, and her excitement about their return is growing.

Lillian Davies