Art Review: "The Animal In Us" at Galerie Albrecht
Bearing It All
JVF's attention grapples with Frédérique Edy's "L'Ourse" at Galerie Albrecht. Photo: Chris Phillips
The man becomes a bear or bull, the harmless crab swallows people, and the beautiful conch looks like a bomb. All that is needed is that the old instincts, lurking in the human unconscious, come to the surface, or that the dimensions change. – Excerpt from press release of "The Animal In Us"
Walking into Galerie Albrecht in Berlin (warning: exaggerating teaser ahead) I felt as if the sculptures on display were stripping away dozens of millennia from my eyes and body. It was the reminder that humans once molded, twisted, and shaped tangible matter into symbolic objects way before we clothed them with the term "art." "The Animal In Us" might be the contemporary work of French artist Frédérique Edy, but its vestiges are ancient.
Artifact & Artifiction
Entering the gallery, waiting for you, is the menacing gatekeeper and a worthy adversary of the Minotaur: a life-sized half man, half bear wooden sculpture hungry for your attention. But wait! Dare to take a closer look. What appears as carved wood from a distance is actually bronze that has been carefully crafted to fine detail. This is where the exhibition immediately grabbed my attention: not only are these contemporary sculptures dressed with an ancient aesthetic, but even their surface appearance hide what they’re really made of. Garbed with the look of artifacts that could have very well been excavated from, say, the caves of Lascaux, these sculptures create a blur between what is and what isn’t. This blur is further heightened by their half animal, half human characteristics.
"Untitled," a bronze sculpture by Frédérique Edy at Galerie Albrecht. Photo: Chris Phillips
Possibly the best exemplar from these chimeras is the only untitled piece in the exhibition (pictured above). Its surface undoubtedly recalls the texture of wood, especially with the branch-like shape of its deer antler, which is in turn acting as the undulating tail of a fish. The body part that a fish might have used to flee in fear from the threat of a predator appears now as a hardened and spiked, fear-inducing weapon. Rough, raw and beautiful, this sculpture indeed conjures the animals in us, by reflecting our ability to see connections and attach meanings where perhaps there are none.
Bearing It All
"Le Mange-Passion," a bronze sculpture by Frédérique Edy at Galerie Albrecht. Photo: C. Phillips
A conversation about the animal in us wouldn’t be complete without talking about our primal instincts. And while the majority of the pieces in the exhibition do offer, however vague, points of entry into themes of eroticism, it is on the gaping jaws of a crab that we find an explicit rendition. The title "Le Mange-Passion" might say it all. The beast with two backs makes a cameo (two beasts, to be precise) being devoured by, what else, passion. The material for this piece, also concealing appearances, is reminiscent of rusted metal. I imagine that, had the figurines in its jaw been allowed to move, a cute squeaky sound would be emanating from this rusty little crab. A mating call, precisely.
Giving a required closer look to the sculptures of Frédérique Edy. Photo: Chris Phillips
Looking at this body of work I cannot help but to go back before any of this would be considered “art” by today’s standards. No, not a hundred years ago– I mean way back! I’m talking about, arguably, the beginning of art: when the first figurines (which happened to have both animal and human characteristics) were carved and when the first symbolic markings were traced upon a surface of a rock. A time when these sculptures would not be sitting on an empty space for contemplation (i.e. a gallery) but would be resting on a ritual shrine, covered in dirt, blood, and smelling of smoke.
Yet looking closely at these beautiful clumps of bronze, wishing they had other uses besides sitting there looking pretty, I realize that the ritualistic terms of engagement have not changed so much. In fact, only the shrine and manners of worship have shifted. We still attach value–both makers and takers– to these present-day artifacts. These objects appeared to me as proximity mines that blew my imagination across distances of space and time. So you see, today the ritual is no longer out there but is internalized; the deities are no longer out there but in our imagination. And the animal, as ever, remains in us.
- Galerie Albrecht – Frédérique Edy "The Animal In Us" – January 19th - March 2nd 2013, – Tues-Fri: 11am-6pm, Sat: 11am-4pm [Price range of works €1,800-42,000]
Article by Jovanny Varela Ferreyra