November 30th, 2019

Vincent Fecteau at Wattis

Vincent Fecteau @ Wattis

Artist: Vincent Fecteau

Venue: Wattis, San Fransisco

Date: September 5 – November 9, 2019

Click here to view slideshow

Full gallery of images, press release, and link available after the jump.

Johnna Arnold 510-333-3400

Johnna Arnold 510-333-3400

Vincent Fecteau @ Wattis


Images courtesy of Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne/New York; greengrassi, London; and Matthew Marks Gallery, Los Angeles. Photos by Johnna Arnold and Nicholas Lea Bruno.

Press Release:

1. These sculptures are tools.

Some artists begin with an idea or an opinion, and use it to make an artworkfirst comes the meaning, then comes the object. But for Vincent Fecteauideas never work. His sculptures dont come as a result of an idea but are the tools he uses in his attempt to generate ideas and make meaning.

He begins with an initial impulse or desire (the specific trigger quickly becomes irrelevant) and proceeds by folding, cutting, twisting, trimmingadding, leveling, scraping off, smoothing out, carving away, turning overtwisting back, and adding again. He ties knots into other knots. Bit by bithe locates the sharpest edges of whatever emergesthe parts of an object that cut into meaning in a way that makes ideas nervous or that puts them on alertEventually, each sculpture is wound up until it cant be made any tightersharpened until it cant be made any sharper, and it is released into the wildperhaps to become a tool for other people as well.

2. These sculptures are abstract.

Everything is abstract. By which I meana thick sludge of matter, energiesand consciousness is all there really is, at the end of the day. And these sculptures are simply tools that try to access the abstract. They work at getting a bit closer to it, maybe even to stick their toes in it, to get dirty with itFecteau doesnt invent an abstract form as much as he learns how to find one.

These sculptures dont believe in distinguishing the abstract from the really real. Abstraction is not a chosen style or a composition but is deeply humanits about the lived experience of locating and coexisting with it. Any other artwork, be it a figurative painting or a realistic photograph, is just as abstract as Fecteaus, only differently so.

That said, these sculptures arent anchored to the world by being connected to a recognizable topic, message, or, worse, an instruction for how to think or what to believe. Instead, they communicate by speaking a language art is particularly good atthat of arranged shapes, colors, textures, intuitions, and intentions. I decided not to approach content directly, but to trust that it would follow me as I moved around the room. (Fecteau).

3. These sculptures are made by Vincent Fecteau.

Fecteau grew up on Long Island, went to Wesleyan, studied paintinginterned with Hannah Wilke for a summer, didnt like New York that much.He took time off from college and moved to San Francisco in 1990 to work with ACT UP. He worked as a studio assistant to Nayland Blake for a few years, handpainted ceramics, and ended up as a florist. He had his first show in 1994, consisting mostly of photocollages of cats. When Blake decamped for the East Coast, Fecteau took over his apartment and has been making his handcrafted sculptures ever since. When I asked him what he was reading these past few months, he mentioned Now the Night Begins, a novel written by the French filmmaker Alain Guiraudie (Stranger by the Lake). He lives near Balboa Park in the Mission Terrace neighborhood. There is a great painting by Tomma Abts in his kitchen. He bikes everywhere.

4. These sculptures are necessary.

Like practically any other work of art, these sculptures are made by someone who needs to make them. The question is not to ask how Fecteau makes them but why he makes them. The answer, always, is somewhat embarrassing or humiliating, since the sculptures end up saying more about the artist than anything else. They reveal too much, because all selfportraits reveal too much. In all they say about his achievements and capabilities, they say just as much about his limitations. They contain his secrets.

But these objects also embody the contradictions that all of us are: they appear calm yet agitated, exposed but also secretive, fully formed but still formless.

5. These sculptures are traps.

Vince sends me a Youtube link. Its a talk by the artist Don Potts, from 1981.

You go to that feeling, you work on the trap, the trap sucks the feeling inmakes the feeling a little bit more concrete, you go back to the trap, you get rid of the junk, you build a more pure version, you go back to the feelingand you just go back and forth. And over the course of the whole process, you start sucking this thing in, sucking this thing inthe trap is starting to catch it.() And then, one part of this trap becomes very important. No fussing around in this area. Other areas, you know, theres some glue hanging off it, or maybe an inch too big, its not important. () What youre trying to catch is something youve never had your hands on. Its subtler than you can think, than your awareness can comprehend. So the trap has to be subtler than any trap youve ever made. You cant use old trapmaking techniquesIt will just get you so far, but it wont take you that last step, to catch that thing. So youre all alone, well not all alone, mom is always around[laughter], but you cant go to history books, you cant go to past workyou have to just respond to what it is youre trying to catch. And it gets incredibly exciting. () At the last moment, when you put the last touches on the trap, something will happen. Its not a trap anymore, it is what youve been trying to catch. This thing becomes that awareness or that ideaor whateveryou cant talk about these things with words, you know. And there it is. And you look at it. And there have been times when Ive just, you know, cried. Not, you know, going toliedownonthebed crying[laughter] but emotion will just pour out of my eyes. (Don Potts)

6. These sculptures are leaps of faith.

The painter Agnes Martin talked about surrendering the intellect. For manyto allow experience to precede cognition is a scary proposition. It puts us in a vulnerable placewalls need to be down, filters off. But what is art about if not vulnerability? Clicking back to Don Potts: you need to be working right at that bottom edge of your nervous system.

Fecteau never draws and never makes preliminary sketcheshe jumps right in.When he makes a cut into a shape, he cant click undo but can only allow consequences to determine his next set of decisions. There is no safety netIts like when you delete that sentence youve become really attached toeven though you dont yet know what will replace it. These sculptures dont know, they believe.

These sculptures are made the way kids build backyard spaceships, with meticulous attention to detail, a grudging respect for the trash he works withand no real hope of recreating what he sees when he closes his eyes. (Dennis Cooper)

7. These sculptures are new.

Even if they resemble others that came before it. They were made all at onceas a group, over the period of a year and a half. Decisions have migrated from one to another, making them siblings, of sortsrelated but selfsufficientThey are made of carved foam, painted papiermâché, and bits of resin claySome 3D scanning and a 5axis CNC router were also involved at one point in the process, which, for the artist, has been an experiment.

8. These sculptures are evidence.

These sculptures are the physical traces of a desire, an intention, or an impulse. They provide evidence of personal and material limitations. They capture the artists present state of mind, putting it on display for all to see.

They are also evidence of a battle between what is and what needs to be. They began on an open battlefield, where possibilities seemed endless. The material made a move, the artist made another, and art made yet anothereach maneuvering itself away from, around, but also closer to the other. As they close in on each other, the decisions get smaller and smaller. The grip tightens.

To some of you, these sculptures will resonate, or strike a chord. They will prove that you share something with someone else. They are evidence that you are not alone.

9. These sculptures are here.

They sit on white pedestals, on display in a gallery. They claim space,perhaps even compress space. They are not models or surrogates for something else. They arent also elsewhere, the way images can be. They exist in the world irreducibly and uncontainably (Fecteau). Their job is to make manifest, in physical form, some of what is not here, or at least not visibly sothe psyche, the libido, and everything else that remains unsaid and unsayable.

Also here are photographs by Lutz Bacher. She and Fecteau have been friends for many years, often sharing ideas and inspirations. Sometimes, Fecteau would come across an object or a situation and would immediately knowthats a Lutz. He would have to pull over or stop to take a picture, and send it to her. She would usually respond with an emoji or two. Years later, much to his delight, he would find out that she had turned the image or object into an artwork. Before she passed away, just a few months ago, the two artists had the idea of including some of those in this exhibitionworks by Bacher that had originally been images Fecteau had found and sent her. They come back to him now, charged with life and friendship.

10. These sculptures are untouchable.

Which is ironic, because they were made by hand and consist of nothing other than the physical traces of the artists own touch. But these sculptures are untouchable in the way sound is untouchablephysically felt but impossible to actually hold on to. They look like what a polyrhythmic piece of music might look like, where many rhythms are made to intersect and overlap, even if theyre all happening at the same time, on top of each other.

I imagine an artwork as a fire that people gather around, Fecteau once saidHis sculptures are untouchable not because they might burn your hand but because the art in them is located in the energy they generate and in the emotions they mobilize. And, like the warmth of a fire or a melody, these sculptures cant be photographed. Should you try, most of the object will be absent from the imageand thats sculptures great advantage over other forms of art: its always hiding something. As Don Potts said about his traps, if too much of the hook is exposed, the fish doesnt bite.

P.S. These sculptures are not art.

Art is an ideal. Its not an actual object. Objects can be evidence of an aspiration to art, but I think art, as a concept, is something biggerIts truth. Its beyond museums and galleries and even artists. Its out of our reach. How we use our limited means to try and approach this truth can be very moving. (Fecteau)


Vincent Fecteau (b. 1969, Islip, NY) has had solo exhibitions in prestigious institutions around the world such as Secession in Vienna (2016), Kunsthalle Basel (2015), The Art Institute of Chicago (2008), and The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archives (2002), among others. His work was featured in the 2002 and 2012 Whitney Biennials in New York and the 2013 Carnegie International in Pittsburgh, among other major group exhibitions. In 2009, he curated an exhibition of works from SFMOMAs collection. The MacArthur Foundation named Fecteau a 2016 MacArthur Fellow. He currently lives and works in San Francisco.

Anthony Huberman

Link: Vincent Fecteau at Wattis Institute

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