“I have always thought of Calder’s invention as a new field in the history of art (rather than as the appearance of new objects). I try to explore the possibilities of these elusive forms in space. Their rigorous appearance contrasts with their form and uncertain balance.” This is how Xavier Veilhan spoke of his interest in Alexander Calder’s mobiles, as reflected in his Grand Mobile (2004) made up of black spheres, the largest work he has created for a public space, hanging above the foyer of the Centre Pompidou.
Veilhan is intrigued by Calder’s artistic production of the early 1930s, when he met Joan Miró (1928), Piet Mondrian (1930), and Marcel Duchamp (1931), and just before the exhibition Calder, ses mobiles held at the Vignon gallery in Paris (February 1932), in which Calder imparted movement to forms taken from Neoplasticism. Veilhan is deeply interested in the way in which Calder approached kinesthetic vision, the physical sensation of speed, and the mechanization and acceleration of modern life, stimulating him to take an interest in the movements of animals as much as in abstract cosmology; he may even have been intrigued by the use of mobiles as visual interludes and counterpoints in performances by Martha Graham and in Satie’s Socrate.
Veilhan’s simply numbered mobiles are made from spheres but also circles, whalebones, zigzagging lines, and polyhedrons. They adumbrate in space a message that has to be deciphered. This punctuation of space sometimes takes on a threatening look that brings to mind a sky black with rain or some indeterminate cataclysm; their appearance is darker than that of Calder’s mobiles. In fact, these elements, as simple as musical notes on a stave, are meant to evoke “thought bubbles,” a materialization (and a suspension) of visitors’ thoughts. We are not far here from the graphic conventions of cartoons, in which bubbles express the characters’ thoughts. This is a mental landscape whose round, bulging form is easily matched with the way we picture our own brains. In this respect, Veilhan’s mobiles also seem to refer to cellular structures or the kind of medical or chemical images that are inspired by scientific plates. But there is also room here for the sensuality that this artist has always cultivated in his work: “For me, a handsome minimalist lacquer can also be very sensuous.”
- Riccardo Venturi From the book 'Suspension', by Matthieu Poirier, published by Olivier Malingue Ltd and Skira, Paris, 2018. Book available to purchase from the gallery for £35.
Galerie Perrotin, Paris.
London, Olivier Malingue Gallery, Suspension - A History of Abstract Hanging Sculpture, 1 October - 15 December 2018.