Vincent Larouche: à l’extérieur
March 10th through May 7th, 2023
From the press release:
What happened with postmodernism? It feels like living in a perpetual hangover, wandering the debris of an extravagant house-party that we can’t quite remember being invited to, detritus of the good times scattered throughout, spent and scarred across the landscape.
The supplanting of meaning with un-meaning, ironic detachment, sarcastically adopting the societal practices that every decade of Western Culture since the 1960s has claimed to rail against - this is the state of being under a post-post-modern culture. We’ve reached a point where adopting even a detached nihilism, an extreme detachment, has become another boring social aesthetic for virulent teenage boys to play with, all piss and vinegar, wailing on the corpse of meaning. Detachment, it seems, is boring.
Mark Fisher described this death of meaning and subsequent embracing of detachment The Slow Cancellation of The Future which essentially referred to the walking back of the potential-peak of the Great British early nineties, where one good free party could save the world, bruv. What he didn’t account for is the idea that artists, cultural savants intent on picking through that debris, might find some interest in it - even meaning. The cultural detritus produced between the industrial revolution and the advent of the smartphone is innumerable, only possible to catalogue through the collective action of billions of fingers tapping away on keyboards. These acts of cataloguing, archiving, publishing and mocking have provided access to resources unimaginable to artists working during those arguably more fertile periods, and digging through vast junkyards of culture is where we encounter the work of Vincent Larouche.
Adopting an approach that blends Modernism’s search for connection through form with Post-Modernism’s refutation of linear visual signifiers, Larouche has produced a new body of work spanning the aesthetic histories and motivation of contemporary visual culture over the last century. Transcending the well-trod practice of artists combining high and low culture, these paintings do not provide easy inroads for the lazy critic, instead offering opportunities for alternative understanding through subtle tricks - altering a brush stroke or rendering of a particular face, adjustments in colour palettes or compositions between works or even the density of the pigment applied to surface. Larouche’s new paintings are dense with referential material, employed duplicitously, encouraging the viewer to build new interpretations, new histories, from the building blocks he provides.
Works like Erebus (2022) entwine histories of art and popular culture, employing opposing visual styles as a means of destabilising the semiotic language of the indicators set within the surface - including subjects, colours, approach to painting and composition. As much a nod to Manet as it is to Polke, the work utilises the graphic outline of the female figure in contrast to the loose paintwork of the skull, calling into question the value structure of meaning as ascribed to works of art. What position is art in when Pop-Culture behemoths transcend the lifespan of their founders, mask over their life’s indiscretions and proceed to have global influence of a type which was previously unimaginable?
Larouche’s work does not endeavour to answer these questions, instead providing an unsympathetic grounding from which viewers are able to conduct thought experiments around not only the deriving of meaning, but also the value and function of interpretation as a search for meaning under contemporary conditions. WM