September 28, 2011

Not Vital Scultptures, Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris

Exhibition: Not Vital, Scultptures, Diao Su
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris

Through 15 October 2011

Piz Nair, 2011, coal
Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris

Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in Paris is currently exhibiting works by Swiss artist NOT VITAL, whom the Galerie represented for the past 20 years.

Not Vital was born in 1948 in Sent (Switzerland), studied in Paris and moved to New York in 1974. Today he lives between New York, Graubünden in Switzerland and Beijing in China. His artistic career started in the early 1970s and he turned to sculpture in the early 1980s.

Through the years Vital continues to surprise his audience. This element of surprise is manifested in the exploration of different materials, people and places. Vitalʼs curiosity for the world can be observed in particular periods throughout his career: he has spent time with third-generation Venetian glass blowers in Murano, Tuareg silversmith tribesmen in Niger, papermakers in Bhutan.

In Vitalʼs current exhibition of new work we can see the influence of China, and specifically, Beijing. Since 2008 Vital has spent five months per year working in his studio in the Caochangdi district of Beijing. Here, he discovered exceptionally skilled and creative stainless steel craftsmen - Tongue is made in a foundry on the outskirts of Beijing. The stainless steel is crafted by hand, rather than cast. The complicated, arduous and lengthy process is an important part of the work, resulting in a smoothly polished surface that is highly reflective.

Although Vital spends much time in Beijing, his Swiss roots prevail at certain creative moments. Piz Nair (Romantsch for ʻBlack Mountainʼ) consists of a mountain-shape carved into a block of Chinese coal. Piz Nair is one of the most famous mountains in the Engadine, the area that Not Vital is from. It is thought-provoking that the scale of a huge mountain is reduced to a relatively small sculpture, whereas the scale of the Tongue is vastly increased. The tension of scale, and the presentation of a somewhat topsy-turvy world, focuses the audienceʼs attention on material and form. Coal is unconventional as a material for sculpture, but takes on a political significance in the context of daily life in Beijing  - where coal is burnt across the city to provide fuel, often in dangerous and hazardous conditions. Lastly, the sculpting of a mountain – solid and strong – in a material that is brittle and fragile, is in keeping with Not Vitalʼs tendency towards the bizarre or surreal. 

The works in this show are varied in material and content, yet are held together by a strong sense of the artistʼs vision, striving to find  ever-new ways of expression and form-making. Working with different craftsmen and the influences of high and low culture in Beijing, Not Vital has created a sophisticated and captivating body of work with cerebral concerns and physical integrity. 

Text © Alma Zevi 2011

Upcoming exhibitions at the galerie:
Alex Katz, Face the Music, October 20 - November 19, 2011
Banks Violette, Nine Patriotic Hymns for Children, October 20 - November 19, 2011  (Drawing Space)
Robert Mapplethorpe, Curated by Sofia Coppola, November 25, 2011 - January 7, 2012
Nick Oberthaler, November 25, 2011 - January 7, 2012 (Drawing Space)

Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris-Salzburg
7, rue Debelleeyme - 75003 Paris
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