Vincent Fecteau’s recent abstract sculptures are at once more conservative and more radical than his past work. The eight pieces that were on view in this show are all slightly larger than tabletop size, and all are made of painted papier-mâché. In the past, Fecteau’s work has been somewhat smaller and has included found elements such as photographs and bits of carpet, usually added in the service of augmenting color or complicating space. Less willfully wacky and more solidly present, these new sculptures (all untitled, 2008) were each built around the armature of a partially inflated beach ball (and perhaps other things).
Similar curves and what can be called “postures” recur throughout these works, which traffic in the kind of space created by architectural models; they seem like forms Frank Gehry or Frederick Kiesler would admire, often taking the shape of plantlike bulbs, spent blossoms or domes. Their unexpected changes in direction (insides become outsides), surprising ways of supporting volume, and strangely confounding counterbalances of mass call to mind the evasive gamesmanship of Anthony Caro’s purely abstract sculptures of the early and mid-’70s. Early constructivism is also evoked, and awareness of Tony Smith’s work is evident in the twisted bridge configuration of a number of Fecteau’s pieces.
Twentieth-century modernism seems to be under determined if lighthearted re-examination by a lot of artists who were formerly involved in insistently transgressive work. Like some of these peers, Fecteau proceeds intuitively, making decisions as he goes. He does not use preparatory drawings and works slowly. Consequently, his work is more seriously unnerving than if he had set out to shock. Especially unexpected are the colors he has chosen to paint these already difficult pieces. Among them are international signage ocher and black, chalky turquoise, blunt pine green and white, and slightly muted Barney the Dinosaur purple; all are applied in a saturated, matte-finish acrylic.
The scale is specific: due to deliberate quirks of color and paint application, these pieces can’t be mistaken for maquettes or models. However, the feeling of architecture is strong, a sensation not so much of dollhouses as of unbuildable amphitheaters or opera houses. The fact that the works are papier-mâché is mostly not apparent, with the exception of one piece with a small unpainted ledge around one side of its base, where the newspaper used in the making is exposed. All these works look like they could have been carved (though it would be difficult), modeled in plaster or even cast in metal. All have an idiosyncratic sobriety that feels new and engaging.
Photo: View of Vincent Fecteau’s exhibition of untitled painted papier-mâche sculptures, all 2008; at Matthew Marks.