Unease will creep in when one is openly confronted with guilty pleasures and private vices. Such is the case with French artist Cyril Duval’s sculptures, those installations and mantelpieces composed of neatly arranged, easily recognizable commercial products propped up by concrete cinder blocks and industrial shelving. McDonald’s; Hostess Twinkies; Muscle Milk; Superman; Mickey Mouse; Quaker Oats; Kellogg’s cereal; Justin Bieber, his likeness unfortunately reappropriated for an off-brand “love doll” — they are all here, stacked tidily and presented without discernment, in “Voir Dire” at Johannes Vogt Gallery, Duval’s first exhibition in New York.
Sculptures such as Baby, baby, baby oooh Like baby, baby, baby, nooo (all works 2014) and Portrait of Mussolini as Prometheus nestle the brightly colored cardboard boxes of snacks and canned foods among fake flowers and fruit, while Halved (Moby-Dick), an inflated whale with a vacant smile, is beached nearby. The film JOSS, made with Chinese artist Cheng Ran, screens in an adjoining room, documenting joss paper objects — traditional funeral offerings in various Asian cultures — being consumed by fire.
This multivalent artist has already manipulated the readymade contextualization and precise designation that the name brand and logo can provide across various platforms and media: As one-third of the geographically fabled Shanzhai Biennial, the ongoing exhibition series and marketing machine of unclear motive that he presents with fellow artist Babak Radboy and stylist Avena Gallagher (and named not after the next art-world destination but rather the Chinese shanzhai, the practice of manufacturing and selling knockoff designer goods on the black market); as collaborator with the exclusive Parisian boutique Colette and Commes des Garçons and architect for avant-garde fashion designer Bernhard Willhelm’s boutique in Tokyo; in addition to numerous branding and communication projects for DIS magazine and New York’s Neuehouse, among others.
Given that the artist’s moniker, Item Idem, translates to “the same” from Latin, “Voir Dire” suggests that whether we are in the market for tokens of luxury and style or aspire to wholesome virtue through the purchasing of cornflakes and Aim toothpaste, the satisfaction we desire through consumption is flamed out quickly, and all item idem.