Accompanying Antoine Donzeaud and Adam Cruces‘ joint In the Clear, Caring, Curing exhibition at Milan’s NAM project, running November 19 to January 10, is a comprehensive list of the elements that make up the synthetic materials, foods and fabrics that in turn make up the show. Compiled by curators Pierre-Alexandre Mateos and Charles Teyssou the text includes a capitalised ‘PARAFFIN’, ‘CALCIUM METAPHOSPHATE’ and ‘CHOLESTEROL’, as well as ‘ETHYLENE VINYL ACETATE ISOBUTYLENE TERPOLYMER’, ‘METHOXY-POLYETHYLENE GLYCOL COPOLYMER’ and ‘METHACRYLIC ACID COPOLYMER’. It’s a nod to the notion of ‘transparency’ in Donzeaud’s work and the plastics of Cruces’ , whereby in exposing the facts and data down to its smallest, anatomical level it obscures its reality even more.
Consider the 208 words, 1863 characters of the press release text, in opposition to the exhibition images (viewable in the gallery top right). One gives a far clearer indication and greater insight into the intentions of its artists than other in the idea of an exhibition as the sum of its parts. In this case that sum is in the interaction of works and ideas by Donzeaud and Cruces, who inspire and respond to each other in a dynamic conversation. The Paris-based artist’s series of works with polythene (a chemical and organic compound used for everyday plastic packaging and containers) is set alongside the US-born Cruces’ meshen image-objects and vacuum-sealed still lifes. Playing with the idea of transparency as a material quality (say, in see-through containers and screens), as well figuratively (as in the expression, ‘we’re in the clear’, or ‘everything is ok’), the In the Clear, Caring, Curing title points to the all-too-human obsession with preservation and protection across all its composite works.
The outcome is the slightly nauseating, unnatural images of Cruces’ cryo-vac bags woven through the cables of the NAM project space’s outdoor terrace railings. Bits of bread, orange pieces and a banana peel hang in suspended animation as ‘Still Life’ (2014), next the leaves and flowers of ‘Landscape’ (2014) and the lifeless objects of an artist’s practice in ‘Studio’ (2014). These can be seen from inside the gallery through the mesh, zip ties and suction cups of ‘Camouflage Alphabet (Alpha and Beta)’ (2014) on a wall-length window, no doubt generating a moiré effect as one walks past it. It’s a similar fascination with light and its effects on his materials that Cruces explored in his Un Coucher de Soleil solo exhibition earlier this year, and no doubt feeds into these installations where an audiences’ reception of a work becomes almost entirely dependent on a moment in time.
This is an exhibition that is anything but static, however hard it might try to be. Donzeaud’s experiments in turning a plastic used for containers into flat screens that adapt to the walls of the indoor space are stretched out and over a frame; sometimes hanging like a canvas in ‘Untitled PE (Caring 01)’ and ‘Untitled PE (Caring 02, 03, 04)’ or jutting out of wall and becoming a sort of installation-sculpture in ‘Untitled PE (Caring 05, 06)’. The view to these works shift and change depending on the angle from which you look at it. Meanwhile, the potential pun of the gloves, bubble wrap and canned drink sculptures Cruces calls ‘Handy Cans’ (2014) frame these images, nodding to a human hand but containing only a synthetic simulation of it. Like a photo or a moving image made by a handycam, being alive is one thing, the anatomy of how that life lives is another. **