Paris

Valentin Carron, Tout près presque dedans (So Close Almost Inside), 2014, vinyl ink on PVC tarpaulin, galvanized steel tubing, metal wire, 35 1/2 × 29 1/2".

Valentin Carron, Tout près presque dedans (So Close Almost Inside), 2014, vinyl ink on PVC tarpaulin, galvanized steel tubing, metal wire, 35 1/2 × 29 1/2".

Valentin Carron

Kamel Mennour | Rue Saint-André des Arts

Valentin Carron, Tout près presque dedans (So Close Almost Inside), 2014, vinyl ink on PVC tarpaulin, galvanized steel tubing, metal wire, 35 1/2 × 29 1/2".

A direct translation of the title of Valentin Carron’s exhibition “L’Autoroute du soleil à minuit” yields “Highway of the Sun at Midnight.” The romantic-sounding phrase evokes a real highway, the 591-mile-long toll road from Paris through Lyon to the Mediterranean at Menton; francophone vacationers, their cars stuffed with beach towels and topped with parasols and folding chairs, call this road “l’autoroute du soleil.” The highway, the first section of which opened in 1960, was designed to serve an emerging European thirst for leisure and consumption. It is an appropriate reference for the artist as he mines the modern visual vernacular. Here Carron transformed the gallery space, literally piercing a false wall in Un mur cinq trous (One Wall Five Holes), 2015, while advancing the aesthetics of an imagined village somewhere in contemporary Western Europe. For example, he introduced the wood-slat carpentry of a white-painted barn facade onto the ceiling of the narrowest room of the gallery, making evident the provincial scenography that informs Carron’s work.

Seven works, each titled Belt hanging on the wall, 2014, were just that, but not quite. From afar, the snakelike belts crafted in pastel glass and hung in a row like animal pelts suggest Daniel Buren’s deliberate patterns of stripes. On view concurrently at Kamel Mennour’s new exhibition space two blocks away, Buren’s “degree zero of painting” could not have been an unintended subject for Carron’s interpretation. Most of the belts mimic a single cut piece of leather, but one, cast in a rich amber glass, is of the woven-leather variety, the kind worn too long by hipsters in high-waisted jeans. When speaking about these works, the artist describes the belts’ “menacing” quality and their “domestic virility.” But one perceives, instead, a laughable impotence in these sculptures—a sense of defeat that does not take away from their strength as cultural artifacts. A Brutalist-influenced gray sculpture finished with gently faded white stripes, The great object (after André Gigon), 2014, is an identical copy, in polystyrene and resin, of a public work in concrete from the 1950s by a minor Swiss artist. “My materials are artists themselves,” Carron has explained. “It’s a negation of creativity in a way, because I don’t create, I copy.” The detached coolness of the artist’s works, essentially assisted readymades, is contrasted by his obsessive attention to surface and source material.

“Fundamentally, I’ve always been a painter,” Carron has confessed. Here he presented three paintings, each realized with vinyl ink on PVC tarpaulin and mounted on steel tubing and metal wire. Appropriating the graphic design of book covers from the 1950s and ’60s and transferring them onto weatherproof industrial supports most typically used for roadside advertising, Carron exaggerates the aspirations of modern aesthetics. The formal graphic pattern of Tout près presque dedans (So Close Almost Inside), 2014, four bold black stripes on a flat yellow background, could be read as either an attempt at Burenesque Minimalism or cryptic signage for summertime hikers. The undulating black stripes of the large-scale Père et fils (Father and Son), 2014, loomed on the wall adjacent to the small, icon-like Main bleue bougie blanche (Blue Hand White Candle), 2014, which, we might imagine, futilely seeks to illuminate a stretch of asphalt in the middle of the night.

Lillian Davies