In this issue of Parkett, grandiosity is cut down to size while intimacy looms large. Valentin Carron, Frances Stark, Adrián Villar Rojas, and Danh Vo consider the disproportionate influence of the powerful and tip the scales in the opposite direction. On the cover, a boy smears red handprints down a white wall. He is one of the many young relatives whom Danh Vo invited to join him at Villa Medici, in Rome, as he prepared his exhibition at the start of 2013. The children’s colorful graffiti provided the backdrop for Vo’s work, a concrete reflection of the way that familial bonds pulse beneath the surface of his coolly conceptual installations. Objects bought at auction that once belonged to Robert S. McNamara, US secretary of defense under presidents John F . Kennedy and Lyndon B . Johnson and a primary architect of the war in Vietnam, are presented alongside calligraphy by Vo’s father, who helped his family to escape the country following the fall of Saigon. As Michael Newman observes, “The pen is merely a pen, but what orders it must have signed! These chairs were sat on by McNamara—and perhaps Kennedy and Johnson!” But Vo has stripped the chair, its insides now metamorphosed into a dehierarchized antiform.
In the work of Frances Stark, personal experience is given prominence, from diaristic reflections to sexual encounters on the Internet. The scale of her work, however, is anything but intimate, as the desktop expands to fill the room, and even a theater. Monika Szewczyk argues that Stark returns to the epic—“but a homemade epic, an almost-epic, virtually opera buffa”—and to the Gesamtkunstwerk , “as her work synthesizes poetry, music, pictorial art.”
Adrián Villar Rojas translates science-fiction fantasies of dystopian futures into monumental sculptures. However, unlike ancient Egyptian obelisks or Hellenic altars, these architectural markers cannot be appropriated by later conquerors and given new meaning. Villar Rojas’s material of choice is unfired clay, and thus his sculptures begin to crumble even as he finishes them. “A lost civilization can be reclaimed by the next one,” writes Doryun Chong, but Villar Rojas’s monuments will “vanish with no regrets.”
Valentin Carron remakes monuments as well, finding inspiration in the modernist public art of his native Switzerland. As he enlarges and shrinks them, substituting materials, Carron foregrounds how we interact with the sculptures that surround us; once avant-garde, they now form a staid backdrop. SWEET REVOLUTION (2002) , a “stack of three shapes” accented by bottles of poppers, leads Lionel Bovier to imagine a group of skateboarders hanging out in a provincial town on a Saturday night: “They probably no longer even notice this monument in the middle of the small square where they are in the habit of gathering.”
For the Insert, Tala Madani has miniaturized the loutish men who people much of her work—yet their mischief-making remains undiminished.