Samuel Rousseau, Boardburg, 2011, wood, metal,
plastic, rubber, 31 ½ x 8 ¼ x 4in
©2011 Etienne Frossard
September 22 - October 30, 2011
Parker’s Box is delighted to announce the third solo exhibition at the gallery by French artist, Samuel Rousseau. Among other works, the artist will present part of a new body of work developed specifically for the exhibition during his recent residency at PointB studios in Williamsburg. The new works constitute Rousseau’s homage to the energy of New York City, and will concurrently feature as his participation as one of four nominees for the Prix Marcel Duchamp, France’s most prestigious contemporary art prize, to be presented at the Grand Palais in Paris from October 20 – 23.
While Samuel Rousseau’s practice may be unreservedly pluridisciplinary, he regularly returns to one of his most successful formulas, that of projecting images onto, or into three-dimensional volumes of vastly varying scales, placed in diverse contexts. A number of works corresponding to this technique emerge as landmarks that trace the development of the artist’s career and recognition.
In 1996, Rousseau made a work titled P’tit Bonhomme (L’il Fella), which corresponded to another recurrent preoccupation, – that of easily missed, intimate works that the spectator might discover almost by chance, and certainly with an element of surprise. P’tit Bonhomme is a video projection on the first step of a staircase, and represents a Lilliputian figure making enormous but futile efforts to haul himself onto the step. At Parker’s Box in 2001, the artist presented Egg, a large egg in a bird’s nest placed in the corner of the gallery. On close examination, a fish could be seen swimming around inside the egg. The troubling realism of this piece (realized with a video projection through a hole in the floor) caused complaints from disturbed visitors! A similarly baffled public, together with considerable media attention was a repercussion of a monumental piece presented for the 2003 Nuit Blanche festival in Paris. This time the scale was anything but intimate, with coordinated video projections recreating the appearance of a naked giant, uncomfortably imprisoned in a multi-storey building.
Partly inspired by a reflection on Le Géant, a subsequent extended series of works recreated a bustling urban landscape, using scaled down window projections onto city-like constructions assembled from plastic jerry cans. To make this ambitious series, titled Plastikcity, (2005), the artist filmed mini-narratives, acted out by professional actors from the French National Theater in Orleans.
On previous visits to New York, Samuel Rousseau had been struck by the feeling that the city was a huge, perhaps slightly archaic machine, nevertheless full of energy and unstoppable movement. In observing the buildings, sky-scrapers, chimneys etc. he began to see them, not only as phallic symbols of power and potency, but also as if they were pistons of this huge, living, breathing, fuming, clanking, sighing, grinding machine, constantly in action 24/7.
He began to make drawings, inspired by these forms, the drawings morphed into symmetrical, Rorschach-like masses that freed themselves of any attachment to the ground. The final transformations generated Rousseau’s Brave Old New World series of wall-based volumes that host video projections and look like spacecraft, able to blast off whole fragments of cityscape into space. New York has aspects that really are archaic, almost obsolete, striking a high contrast with other elements that are ultramodern, keeping pace with the City’s newest ‘distant cousins’, those shiny, exploding, multi-million populated new conglomerations in the Far East whose names many of us have trouble remembering.
The title of Samuel Rousseau’s exhibition, and his latest series of works, indirectly revives the irony of Aldous Huxley’s 1932 book, while somehow situating New York in it’s evolving position in the pecking order of world cities. It was once the fresh-faced archetype of the New World in comparison to the Old World of Europe, while today it increasingly feels as if it represents the new Old World of aging skyscraper cities in relation to the new New World of sparkling skyscraper megalopolises such as Shenzhen or Chongqing. At the same time, New York’s authenticity, energy levels, and belief in itself have not diminished, an aspect that both inspired and influenced Samuel Rousseau in the realization of these new works.
Samuel Rousseau’s works using video have always been complemented by diverse more purely sculpturally based practices stemming from his intense curiosity in relation to everyday objects and the expression of our culture that they can embody. From a humming-bird screwdriver to a sawn-off bicycle mounted on a hunting trophy shield (both shown at Parker’s Box), the transformation of his curiosity into inventive and unexpected objects seems tireless.
In a similar vein, and included in the current exhibition is Rousseau’s nod to the particular strain of partly affected hipster culture of this neighborhood, which the artist experienced during his residency here. This work, titled Burgboard, is a skateboard cut out to represent the map of Williamsburg. As soon as it was finished and carried around the local streets, it solicited acknowledgements of its being seriously cool. There’s a degree of irony here, in that the act of cutting out the board, in order to make the artwork, simultaneously rendered it useless as a skateboard, as befits a work of art…
Samuel Rousseau was born in Marseille, France, in 1971. He lives and works in Grenoble, France.
Notable exhibitions in 2010/11 include: the Prix Marcel Duchamp, Grand Palais, Paris; the Prix Marcel Duchamp at the Museum of Modern Art, Lille, France; ZKM, Kahlsruhe, Germany; Tinguely Museum, Basel, Switzerland; Boghossian Foundation, Brussels, Belgium; MoNA, Museum of Old and New Art, Moorilla, Australia; a retrospective at the Salomon Foundation, Alex, France; as well as solo shows at Volta New York with Aeroplastics Gallery, Brussels; Galerie Claire Gastaud, Clermont Ferrand, France; and the Centre Européen d’Actions Artistiques Contemporaines, Strasbourg, France, without forgetting the artist’s participation in the exhibition, “Skateboarding is not a crime”, at Spacejunk Art Center in his hometown of Grenoble…