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New Arcs and Drawings by Bernar Venet

Bernar Venet is currently at work on ambitious projects, not the least of which involves a 180-foot Corten steel sculpture, weighing thirty tons, that will rest against the cornice of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Venet, who has been working with arcs and lines for over thirty years, breaks the neo-Classical symmetry of the Arc de Triomphe with a shaft spanning an angle from the pavement to the top of the monument. The massive stone arch is strangely liberated by the presence of this linear prop which animates space around the arc. Venet hopes to see the work realized by the 14th of July for Bastille Day, where it might become the locus of reflection on martial values in history. Napoléon commissioned the arch as a monument to the French army, but Venet through his intervention wishes to evoke a sense of the répos de l’arme, ushering in a peaceful world order.

Bernar Venet’s proposal for a sculptural installation on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

The values of peace and community are further explored in a conceptual project entitled Les Grandes Diagonales. Venet imagines the globe as being traversed by vertical shafts. A shaft that projects from a square in Paris (at a very particular angle) may resurface after its subterranean passage in Tokyo. These sites would involve monumental pitched columns in steel and an underground room in which broad band satellite cameras would photograph visitors. A large screen would relay the image of visitors to the complimentary site, across the globe, in real time. In theory, two people could decide to meet at these sculptures at a given hour and speak through this camera/ screen arrangement. Venet would also like to realize computer simulations of the sculpture as seen from imaginary perspectives above and below. Through Venet’s project, art becomes a metaphor for global unification. Les Grandes Diagonales also reflect humane values and simultaneously become local and global meeting places.

For his exhibition in Florida, Venet exhibits arcs which are sculptural forms determined by mathematics. They consist of perfect geometric forms that interact with one another in close proximity to suggest sequential movement or reflections in a mirror. At a distance these works strike up a dialogue with surrounding tree trunks and the organic, meandering lines which they define. Certain arcs cantilever upwards from the ground parallel to one another, staggered in varying degrees of rotation. They speak of interior spaces like those of a hollow tree or the skeletal plank remains of a wooden boat that has been carried ashore by the ocean. The forms do not seem out of place in nature any more than a ruin, eroding shell or fossil, and they evoke still grander forms through absence of volume.

© Daniel Rothbart, 2000.

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