Vincent Fecteau at Matthew Marks

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Vincent Fecteau is a master of disguise. His sculptures, about the size of a carry-on suitcase, are poised on clean white pedestals in the perfectly proportioned Matthew Marks Gallery in Hollywood. At first glance, or worse, in a jpeg online, they appear to be cast of some sort of dulled metal. That is Fecteau’s slight of hand.

Vincent Fecteau. Untitled. 2016. Papier-mâché, acrylic paint, cardboard tube. 22 1/4 x 50 1/4 x 19 inches. 57 x 128 x 48 cm. ©Vincent Fecteau, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery 

Each is actually made of papier maché, the stuff of elementary school craft projects. Their apparent weight is an illusion but the artist embeds an occasional clue. A sculpture from 2016 is a deep earthy taupe cut with chasms of negative space. Yet, on one end, as if to belie its modernist heft, the artist affixed two thin strips of tartan ribbon. As with any magic act, the effect is both startling and wonderful.

Vincent Fecteau. Untitled. 2016. Papier-mâché, acrylic paint, ribbon, cardboard. 20 x 45 1/2 x 21 inches. 51 x 116 x 53 cm. ©Vincent Fecteau, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

Fecteau’s sculptures are both rectinlinear and not. As David Pagel observed in the L.A. Times, they refer to the severe boxes made by Donald Judd and the generous curvature of Henry Moore depending upon where you might be standing to look at them. Carefully placed to relate to one another, each sculpture also connects to a small collage relief on the wall. 

Detail of Vincent Fecteau. Untitled. 2016. Papier-mâché, acrylic paint, ribbon, cardboard. 20 x 45 1/2 x 21 inches. 51 x 116 x 53 cm. Photo by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp.

These, too, are rather odd, combining photographs of architecture or decorative arts details with three-dimensional materials like a piece of ribbon or white cord or scrap of wood. (In fact, I was initially intrigued by the fact that the announcement of his show arrived as folded book of postcards, in itself something that hasn’t arrived in the mailbox in a decade or so.)

Vincent Fecteau. Untitled. 2014. Mixed media collage. 4 1/4 x 14 1/4 x 1/2 inches. 11 x 36 x 1 cm. ©Vincent Fecteau, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

Fecteau, born in 1969 in Islip, N.Y., has a B.A. from Wesleyan University but now lives and works in San Francisco. Though he hasn’t shown in this country for four years and not in L.A. for fifteen, he has had a number of impressive museum shows and was a winner the the 2016 MacArthur award, known as the “genius grant.” Yet, an essential humility seems to reside within his sculptures, a quality of great appeal in our era of excess.

Vincent Fecteau. Untitled. 2014. Mixed media collage. 7 1/2 x 5 1/4 x 1/2 inches. 19 x 13 x 1 cm. ©Vincent Fecteau, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

In an Ocula online interview, he makes what is today such a rare declaration that I quote it in its entirety: “I would like to encourage people to just look and trust their intuition. People are much more visually astute than they often give themselves credit for. It's a failure of our art institutions that people don't feel like that have some inherent ability to appreciate art.”

That shouldn’t be the case for anyone viewing this very special exhibition. The show continues through Sept. 29.