ANTOINE DONZEAUDshows. works. texts. about.
The work of Antoine Donzeaud acts by propagation. It is related to architecture through the verticality of its formats, through its reference to the frame, through the structure of construction and the horizontality of displacement, of walking, of wandering. In its form, minimalism meets the urban footprint of advertising and graffiti. This relationship to architecture is vast, inspired by the photographic series of abandoned houses by John Divola and the gigantic cuttings of Gordon Matta-Clark. It is also contradictory because it is bound as much to the building as to its deconstruction. But above all it is intimate, it is born of an obsession, a fascination of the artist for a meta-language digital and urban, a desire to tell the stories of those who live there.

This is the story of a storm that makes buildings stagger without ever making them fall. It is the story of skeletal structures, flickering but standing, damaged but still functional, broken glass, exploded windows, a whistling and deadly wind. It is also the story of a place, a refuge that welcomes and protects this fragile urban archeology, supports it, takes care of it. Mitch, Mike and Irene look as much in danger as they inspire danger. They are precarious, salient.

It is the story of an individual, the artist, who becomes a member of a community, creates a group, befriends. Collaborations that erect a territory, forge it. This is the story of a house, ours. Of a grammar, ours. The story of a hurricane that breaks the reverberant surface of the screens to allow us to look through at us, to look through ourselves. It is the poetry of the names of the winds which bear almost the names of gods and which fall down in a more or less hot whirlwind, much like old friends. Mitch, Mike, Irene, like an encounter that makes the next step possible, hanging out together, exchanging ideas together, beating themselves up together, producing together, outdoing each other. A wall of fragments of speeches about us.

– Elisa Rigoulet

All works of art are like a window open to creation; a kind of transparent screen is mounted in the window frame; through this screen, objects appear more or less distorted, as they undergo greater or smaller changes in their lines and colors. These changes depend on the nature of the screen; thus, creation is no longer credible or realistic, as creation is transformed by the medium through which the image passes.
In Salinger’s Teen Novel, Zooey looks out the window and watches a little girl playing with her dog. He says: „There are nice things in this world, we are all such morons to get so sidetracked”. The window appears as a vantage point to gaze into other people’s (beautiful) lives.
In Emma’s house, the window is tantamount to a screen, where she can project her fantasies (which shall never turn into reality); a dissociation; a tie between the external space and the interior space; two sides; two perspectives; a facial expression reflects in the window glass, while a view outside turns into an expectation; „There it was before her – life”.
To the Lighthouse ; a family observes as the days pass and their lives develop through a window; outside the window; a distant object – apparently unobtainable, reveals yearnings, frustrations and desires; the sun sets; days go by; images, impressions and sentiments remain as fragments of the past and sometimes the present. There is no window without a story; for the window is an architectural work of art, that stores memories and tells different sides of one particular story.
There is no window without a screen; a certain gaze or a plain glass is always in between; a created separation; as time passes, the window becomes a symbol for contemporary longings and memories of past days; a cracked screen; a broken window; capable to reveal one’s inner feelings; sometimes hidden behind a bunch of curtains, that once belonged to a (familiar) home.

– Alexandra-Maria Toth

Art history often makes progress by looking back. This reversal must be understood in it’s most literal sense. When we think of Marcel Duchamp’s famous urinal, we often forget his finishing touch : a quarter turn rotation. He was surely being irreverent, but this founding movement of contemporary art also suggested that there was a way to oppose the established order other than simple criticism. Rather than just protest or ruffle feathers, he preferred (in the words of Hal Foster) ‘mimetic exacerbation’ to a head-on collision. Antoine Donzeaud’s work continues in this vein and has expanded across his various formats : deconstructed frames, screen printing on top of advertisements, industrial windows or even videos. Reversal, both the term and the act, is a kind of birth certificate to this practice. “During my last year at Villa Arson in Nice, the art school where I got my degree, about twenty of my canvases were vandalized” the artist revealed. “I was already making videos and prints so my paintings were more or less figurative, copied from photos or based on a series of gestures. First, I tried to remove the canvases and patch them. But after some time, the experience made me want to move away from painting completely so I could focus on the whole. The frame and the canvas together as sculptural elements.” What followed was an initial series called Untitled PE exhibited at his solo show The Moon is a harsh mistress in the project space of the Valentin gallery (Paris 2014). In this show, the artist turned the canvas and frame around completely and covered them both with a transparent sheet.

Although he turned the canvas around and hid the image, Antoine Donzeaud doesn’t fall neatly into the category of artists dedicated to “the simple exposure of the pictorial” first described by the members of the Supports/Surfaces collective in the catalogue “La peinture en question” (Havre 1969). According to them, what reveals the painting as a sculptural object is the exposure of the materials. This prevents the viewer’s mind from wandering elsewhere – musing about the personality of the artist, his background or art history. With Antoine Donzeaud, the narration comes out of the abstract. This narration has nothing to do with a formal affiliation with art history. It takes its roots in the current life of the artist. There are no grand tales or clear reference points. There is simply the infiltration of the every day or rather the hopeless porousness between art and life accepted and welcomed as they are. Born in 1985, Antoine Donzeaud incorporates the de-ranking of source material into the creation of his work. In his second exhibit in the Valentin gallery in 2016 called De 10h a 4h du matin, he mixed together images taken from the street, videos appropriated from the internet, pop culture and the transformative power of the white cube. Borrowing the title of the hit song Je vis, je visser, from the rap group PNL, the artist callously likens drug dealing, the subject of the song, to the work of the artist.

Both activities are carried out during fixed hours, success depends on street smarts, an eye for finding loopholes in a neocapitalist system and an ability to escape the daily routine. In Ordinary Objects for Common Use (Corner Couch) he left the ready-made behind and changed perspective. Useless refuse, like sofas abandoned in the street became objects worthy of attention as soon as they were screen printed on posters. He even ordered through a website raincoats called “Vêtememes”, a knock off of the trendy brand Vêtements. It brought back the idea of the unconscious dress code suitable for punks and office drones alike. There’s no postural critique in these ready-mades. The artist’s touch remains crucial for Donzeaud who counts among his influences the great German painters Sigmar Polke and Georg Baselitz (another master of reversal), American expressionists like Robert Rauschenberg, minimalists like Carl Andre or appropriators like Elaine Sturtevant. There is a certain empathy associated with the artist in the age of YouTube and Internet memes; an openness or warmth that allows them a fluidity in their practice and methods. They are more likely to be content aggregators or archivists than inventors of form as such. However this quality, intrinsic to making art, is also useful in a range of his other activities.“When I came back to Paris after finishing school, I started to show work in my studio in Belleville working alongside a curator, Elisa Rigoulet. With the project space EXO EXO, I first had the idea to curate an installation myself, but little by little, I started to focus on the programming at the space as well.” Showing work by younger less well-known artists in Paris like Pakui Hardware, Adam Cruces or Zoe Barcza, the space lends itself to other uses as well and is open to a diverse mixture of Antoine Donzeaud’s work. It reveals itself as a network of sinuous links; fluid and immersive as the internet.

– Ingrid Luquet-Gad