Nicolas Darrot and La maison rouge go back a long way. He was one of the first artists to be invited, in 2006, to produce a work for the foundation’s patio – his monumental Passage au noir – and has been part of Antoine de Galbert’s private collection for almost twenty years. This time, Nicolas Darrot is presenting a vast and ambitious solo exhibition that includes the first showing of some twenty new works.
His practice takes multiple forms - sculpture, installation, hybrid and animated objects – with references spanning science, history, myths and literature. One of the few French artists to show a keen interest in science and technology, he has learned alongside scientists when installing his projects, each of which is inspired by something he has read.
Règne analogue is a new narrative and another subdivision of the world that moves between animal and mineral. It seeks to replicate living beings following a different logic that goes beyond human considerations to confront us with a sometimes unsettling but always poetic image.
In the main gallery, two huge, evanescent phantoms twist and turn alongside an equally animated and hirsute companion. We see a deer whose antlers have been set ablaze; a fuzzy lamb caressed by a gold curtain; a Kevlar hive from which honey permanently flows, and a metal ibis pecking at the ground in a never-ending circle. Meanwhile, pixel by pixel a lighthouse beams an image from the furthest reaches of the universe.
These are just some of the powerful, dreamlike images summoned by this sorcerer and artist… summoned and made real by a handyman-ventriloquist who gives creatures the power of speech and brings objects to life…
The exhibition also returns to some of Darrot’s earlier works, including the Dronecast series (2002-2008) of mutant insects-cum-war machines; Curiosae, in which groups of insects dominate each other, and the humour of Injonctions (2008-2009) with its moving, talking puppets. Also included is a group of works, assembled by the artist, that constitute a sort of «natural history of machines» and which evoke the shift from the realm of animal to artefact.
Close to 80 works on different scales, each releasing its charge of energy at different moments, endlessly surprise and transform the visitor. They appear to us as active forces, contemporary fetishes responding one to the other to form a cosmogony, the analogue reign of a life form that emerges from inductive and poetic logics.
They question what a living thing is, opposing the presumption of eternity to its fleeting appearances, how it relates to language and learning, and how it is a cause for confrontation.
Darrot proceeds under cover, interpreting with both gravity and humour scenes in which the ordinary dramas of existence attach themselves to the movements of the stars.