ZEVS Takes Over 14th Century French Castle for ‘Noir Eclair’
Equal parts retrospective and intervention
Images by Benoît Paille, all courtesy of the artist.
ZEVS has stormed the castle. And it’s totally legit. Supplanting the flag of the old world with his particular brand of uncommercialism and visual and semantic complexity, the French artist has taken over a former residence of the king of France that dates back to the Middle Ages. The Château de Vincennes, located just outside of Paris, has turrets, an actual moat and a dungeon all included. With the full blessing of The Center for National Monuments, ZEVS has been given carte blanche to reimagine the 14th Century space. The result is Noir Eclair (Black Lightening): part retrospective, part intervention.
“The site is a fortified castle with a very long history,” the artist told Paris Match. “The idea is to awaken this site, but without being crushed by the weight of history or the power of the place.”
Staged throughout the Château, including in its chapel and along its exterior walls, the exhibition totals 25 works. While newly conceived just for the show, the pieces – ranging from “clean” graffiti (tagging dirtied walls with a pressure washer), liquidating corporate logos, visual kidnappings and more – are a continuation of the reactive dialogue ZEVS has been having for more than 15 years. The work persists in his rumination on the very notion of power – both political and economic – literally, by that which the Château represents (it also once functioned as a prison; the Marquis de Sade was held there for seven years), and also our cultural worship and exalting of corporations/luxury brands.
“The idea that you can find graffiti on the walls… left by prisoners; the fact that you are in a château and in a prison at the same time,” says ZEVS aka Aguirre Schwarz, “I found that interesting.”
Noir Eclair boasts sound installations, flashed photographs, oil paintings, bronze sculptures, as well as odes to Mona Lisa, Louis XIV, Apple, and the Canal Street favorite: the knock-off bag.
Suspended in the heights of the stained-glass Sainte-Chapelle, ZEVS’ sculpture “The End” seems to hover in space all on its own. It borrows its form from the cache of the Golden Age of cinema, but its meaning is now multi-fold. With live images from news channels from around the world continually projected onto the sculpture, it questions the idea of “the end” in its entirety – whether the eternal return or the store-bought, happy Hollywood variety.
The vending machine that appears in the Salle du Conseil may at first seem utterly innocuous, but upon closer inspection, its true nature is revealed. Rather than dolling out snacks, it dispenses the figurative execution of historical figures who met their gruesome end via the guillotine. (Cue ZEVS winking.)
For ZEVS, in Noir Eclair, and as made evident throughout his career, the devils – to be defeated – are always is in the details,
Noir Eclair is on view at the Château de Vincennes in France through January 29, 2017.