Sunday, March 13, 2011

Emilie Duval's "Extremely Unlikely" at Darke Gallery

by Dean Liscum

On March 11th 2011,Emilie Duval's show "Extremely Unlikely" opened at Darke Gallery. The show is a mix of paintings, sculptures, and a video.

The paintings comprise silhouettes of moose and occasionally other fauna such as a deer, outlines of flora, and schematic depictions of gas stations, churches, and ambiguous architectural spaces. Geometric lines are super-imposed over the scenes to dissect or serve as visual guide-rails. Some works contain sweeping curves and arcs that are reminiscent of Stella or shipman's curves depending upon whether you approach these works from an art historian's perspective or a draftsman's. The colors are muted. Duval saturated them with gray-blue so that everything on the canvas feels cool (not hip but reticent and aloof).

Emilie Duval, Confusing Blast-0ff, Acrylic and in on canvas. (Photo by Robert Boyd)

Confusing Blast-off and Our Dangerous Growing Divide are representative of the canvases in this show. I interpret them as claiming that the world (in all its facets: social, political, religious, economic) is out of balance.

Duval's sculptures consist of several pre-fabricated wooden mounted mooseheads wrapped in pastel ribbons. They're soberly entitled "Thread of Ambiguity", "Appropriate Behavior", "First to Report", "Control Performance", and "Global Threads".

Emilie Duval, Appropriate Behavior, ribbons, wood sculpture. (Photo by Robert Boyd.)

Emilie Duval, Global Threads, ribbons, wood sculpture. (Photo by Dean Liscum.)

Emilie Duval, Threads of Ambiguity, ribbons, wood sculpture. (Photo by Robert Boyd.)

The symbolism is obvious enough: the wild (nature or your inner wild thing) in wraps. Yet, Duval's chosen materials and colors compromise its cogency. Instead of a powerful image, the shiny ribbons and mass produced wall mounts transform the experience into more of a pop fetish a la Rihanna's S&M music video than a powerful image of authentic repression, control, or discipline. An appropriate title for the series might be "Brownie troop XXX does Bullwinkle in Bondage". "Javelin", a two meter-long stick adorned with paint, rope, and tape seems both materially and curatorial-ly out of place. It leans in a corner looking more maintenance-like than menacing. Positioned differently I might have appreciated it differently.

The video, "Regulation 1.10", is ambiguously disturbing. There's a human-sized white bunny (think Donnie Darko) and pre-teenage boy in a large house. The bunny wanders the house through its daily routine. The boy follows and serves him. The relationship is obviously hierarchical but its nature is vague. It might be sexual, paternal, religious, financial, etc. Everything moves in slow motion as if you're in an evidentiary hearing and the projectionist has slowed down the video so that we can clearly see the violation. I hate to spoil the ending for you, but it never comes: neither the ending,nor the bunny, nor the boy. From the artist's website and speaking with her, I learned that the title Regulation 1.10 "refers to a proposal to limit the leverage in Forex to 1:10. The white bunny is the Speculator Guardian. The video is slow and the atmosphere heavy to emphasize the ferocious ambiguity between wealthiness and normal behavior regarding financial matters." As with the current financial situation, I don't see a lot of normal in this video, which may be the point.

Duval comes to art from the legal profession. This biographical detail is telling because her works approach their subjects very formally with a level of detachment that is associated with legal arguments or
intellectual discourse. If this is a warning cry, it's not a bang or even a pop, but a polite whimper prefaced by the phrase, "if it please the court." It's extremely unlikely to get the emotional reaction its subject needs.

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1 comment:

  1. I find the painting very interesting, but I also immediately thought of Benjamin Edward's geometric/architectural work when I saw it.