David Douard, WE, 2015, plaster, aluminum, copper, balloon, eggs, chain, 16 1/2 × 9 7/8 × 9 7/8".

David Douard, WE, 2015, plaster, aluminum, copper, balloon, eggs, chain, 16 1/2 × 9 7/8 × 9 7/8".

David Douard

David Douard, WE, 2015, plaster, aluminum, copper, balloon, eggs, chain, 16 1/2 × 9 7/8 × 9 7/8".

Bastardized and truncated forms of language motivate David Douard’s approach to sculpture. The improvised elisions and contractions in vernacular discourse and the inclusiveness of a vague pronoun coursed through communication technologies, bodily and electronic alike, in his exhibition “Bat-Breath. Battery.” The desire to render such phenomena visible was most obviously embodied in six square shadow boxes, which, corresponding in size to a large cutout excised by the artist in a wall connecting two gallery spaces, suggested cross-sections of the building’s hidden electrical interior. Several of these, such as WE (breath) (all works 2015), feature textiles with silk-screened images of a mouth exhaling thick strands of smokelike effluvia. Atop these pictures, which recall late-nineteenth-century paranormal photography of ectoplasm, tangles of copper filament overlaid skeins of aluminum dross embossed with the pronoun WE.

The exhibition intertwined elements of domestic interiors with urban space, by turns alienating or offering refuge. Anonymous confessional poetry harvested from Internet chat/boards was broadcast on speakers in an ancillary gallery. Recited by the singer Ay Avah—her mouth restrained, the press release said, by an unseen form of jewelry—these slurred laments overlapped in loosely alternating tracks, only sporadically intelligible. Communication is less important in Douard’s practice than the performance of materials. And though he makes use of the conductive power of bodily fluids and electrical networks, he appears equally inclined to arrest their flows and interrupt their currents. Along one wall, crumpled dish towels cloaked blown glass orbs that appeared to be inflated by breath from gaping mouths cast in metal, while another group of constructions included plaster casts of balloons and eggshells, each evidencing a desire to give fixed form to respiration and embryonic unity.

Light was used as a material to code the exhibition space. WE (feel the room and live there) 1 and 2, composed simply of the bright sodium lights used in streetlamps, bathed subsidiary rooms in inhospitable yellow hues. At the center of the daylight-balanced main gallery, three jellyfish-like chandeliers, titled WE (new street / no name) 1–3, were suspended from the ceiling by cast-aluminum bars resembling spinal cords. Lycra draped over metal scaffolding formed their bodies, with electrical cords dangling through the crewneck-shirt openings at each apex. Since they’d been hung below eye level, one had to crouch to peer beneath the outermost shell to see an exposed lightbulb near a second, inner enclosure of fabric enveloping an ovoid wicker cradle basket, itself illuminated from within. These assemblages-cum-light-fixtures evoke the maternal body and the refuge of the womb, while formally requiring one to probe their external skins to discover luminous cores. This logic of layering and disclosure seems key to their potential as designs for an alternative space of relation that Douard appears to imagine—cocooned, but capable of communicating with an exterior, as a “new street” with “no name,” as suggested by the title.

Anonymity appeared as a virtue here. The collective subject “WE,” suspended in advance of any predicate, was also attached to the title of each work in the show and suggested another mode of being “untitled.” To be part of a nameless plurality might apply to the integral unity of the womb, prior to the naming that announces differentiation. In interviews, the artist has characterized his works as fossils of quotidian existence, but he has also described them as stillborn. It is this qualified relationship to life, never to be born or die, that is both intriguing and unsettling in Douard’s organic-technical hybrids. Just as the “we” of his titles remains provisional, these figures are at once ungrounded and hyper-connected.

Phil Taylor