Rarely does a review of Fecteau’s work fail to say what his works recall: miniature skateboard ramps, avant-garde stage sets, misshapen toys, Jean Arp sculptures, models for utopian architectural edifices—the list is long. And the critics are not misguided. But their insistent grasping for resemblances to known and describable things is indicative of how forcefully Fecteau’s works beg the viewer to recognize something in them, all the while eschewing anything like a neat resolve of the mystery of what they really are or could possibly represent.
(from a press release, Kunsthalle Basel, 2015)
Rail: You mentioned that you did take an architecture class; you had some experience with model making with balsa wood, foam core, i.e., materials not often used in finished projects. That’s why people have made a connection between your work and architectural modeling. You can’t get away from the fact that when you look at your sculpture, there is a connection with architecture and design.
Fecteau: Yes. Less and less I think, but for years that was definitely true. Somehow the model-like aspect of the work allowed me to think of the pieces almost as propositions for art rather than Art. It made the process a bit less intimidating.
Rail: There’s humor, which I find in your work, too. Your objects are curious—they can’t be easily described.
Fecteau: I think that’s a great compliment. I would love my pieces to seem “right” but without reason. Too often people think ideas generate the work; I think the work generates ideas.
(Extract from an interview with Constance Lewallen, The Brooklyn Rail, 2009 ; https://brooklynrail.org/2009/09/art/vincent-fecteau)
Dennis Cooper about Fecteau’s early work :
Fecteau makes art the way kids build backyard spaceships, with meticulous attention to detail, a grudging respect for the trash he works with, and no real hope of re-creating what he sees when he closes his eyes. He’s shooting for the sublime, albeit in a backhanded way. His collages and sculptures are exquisitely calculated, goofly designed, emotionally weird low-tech containers for the ineffable, whatever that is. He’s not sure what he’s getting at, or even how best to express his confusion, which is why his work constantly shape-shifts.
Fecteau’s obsessive search for meaning (or whatever) takes him to some unlikely places – cat calendars, E.T. – but he can’t quite translate the unusual effect these things have on him. Actually he’s not even sure his art is the right place to try to manifest his private search, but it’s not like he has any choice. All he can do is fine-tune his ambivalence and hope that if he’s enough of a perfectionist on the surface, the work will communicate what he can’t. A strange unfocused beauty, specific but undefinable, radicates from his art’s cautious comedy of errors, as scarily familiar as it is tingly on the eyes as it is amusing to deconstruct. « For me, art is all about frustration, » says Fecteau. « It comforts me to think of my pieces as models or diagrams for other pieces… not artworks in and out of themselves. But they suggest the possibility of other artworks. That makes me feel better. Otherwise I’d feel like I was trying for something that’s impossible. It’s like the thing in pop music that’s so intangible yet magical. There’s something there, and I can’t figure out what it is. And I’m trying to look for it in all these different places. »
For « Ben » – the show’s title was lifted from Michael Jackson’s love song to a pet rat – he lined the walls with silly, eerie photocollages, mostly made of cats’ heads scissored from magazines and organized into towering piles of various sizes and shapes. Some of the cats’ eyes were both emphasized and partly obscured by a layer of glue, simultaneously paying tribute to the creatures’ mysteriously monotonous stares and parodying – with Fecteau’s characteristically strict yet reticent delicacy – our tendency to project meaning and reciprocal interest into things that are essentially functional. The cats became advertisements not for their own indecipherable needs but for our neediness ; they remained harmless and innocent even as our projections crystallized on their surfaces.
Other works combined Fecteau’s own photographs of cats with appropriated images of E.T., that universal-by-default symbol of sanitized horror. One of these pieces grouped the images in a circle that seemed at once decorative-wreath-like and defensive, like a wagon train geared for enemy attack. On the floor were small sculptures resembling comically inept rat traps or pet hamster houses built out of shoe boxes. Again, Fecteau’s designs emphasized the touching and ridiculous ways in which we salve our terror of the unknowable by attempting to capture and disempower it in its most palatable forms.
-Dennis Cooper, « Vincent Fecteau », Artforum, April 1995
Chorus #3, collage….
Chorus #3, collage….
Dramatization, 1994, collage, 20×17 cm
Shirley Temple Room #1, 1994, cardboard, yarn, tape, belt, 31x19x17 cm
Shirley Temple Room #2, 1994, cardboard, paper, caulk, 11 x 34 x 56 cm
Shirley Temple Room #4, 1994, cardboard, cork, pipe cleaners, tape, 21 x 30 x 26 cm
Untitled, 2001, mixed media, 44.45 x 41 x 35 cm
Untitled, 1996, foamcore and collage, 22 x 34 x 18 cm
Untitled, 2002, mixed media
Invitation card for a show at Galerie Buchholz, 2006
Untitled, 2006, papier mâché, 50 x 78 x 40 cm
Untitled, 2006, papier-mâché, 46 x 74 x 40 cm
Untitled, 2008, papier-mâché, 65 x 83 x 32 cm
Untitled, 2018, papier mâché, felt, ink, watercolor pencil, birch twigs, 62.2 × 61 × 67.3 cm
Untitled, 2020, papier-maché, acrylic, rope, wood, tulle, 63.5 x 58.5 x 25.5 cm
Vincent Fecteau @ Galerie Buchholz