Valentin Carron


Valentin Carron (born in Martigny in 1977, lives and works in Fully) is one of the important youngest-generation Swiss artists. In recent years he has emerged with an oeuvre that combines central traditions of contemporary art making and questions them in terms of their current meaning. In this way he includes approaches to appropriation in his work as well as Pop Art traditions, the sociological search for clues and post-studio production. Important exhibitions in 2005 included projects in the Centre d'Art Contemporain in Geneva in the form of a double exhibition with Mai-Thu Perret, in the Chisenhale Gallery in London (also with Mai-Thu Perret) and a highly-regarded installation for Art Basel’s Art Unlimited. He also held a solo show in the Swiss Institute in New York in 2006.

The exhibition in the Kunsthalle Zürich brings together a group of the artist’s most recent works and a selection of already existing installations and sculptures. A large group of sculptures tackle themes of public and decorative sculpture, and sculpture that has been aestheticized by being on display. The “public” sculpture of the cross, both a symbol of Western Christian culture and an abstract relief of two lines intersecting each other, appears in several forms, and Carron transformed various images and wall paintings of the public space in Martigny into paintings with a dubious character. In the monumental installation Rance Club II, a chime plays at regular intervals sounding as though coming from far away. Carron had the hymn of the French résistance in the Second World War played from church bells and places this sound behind the walls of an inaccessible (no longer accessible) architectural construction, which, with its rough plaster, shows us the horror of the surface aesthetics of a past age and mindset.

An important role in the artist’s work plays the foundation Gianadda, the tourist attraction in Martigny, a museum which was built around the ruins of a Celtic temple and which houses the archaeological findings from the region as well as supplying bus loads of people to the small village by presenting a changing exhibition programme of classical modern art. An archive of originals and replicas and the accumulation of historical artefacts whose authenticity encompass the definitions of originality and duplicates. The touristic marketing of art and the often doubtful appropriation of this attraction culminates itself in Carron’s objects in form of a production of art which is a multilayered field of doubtful reputations. With this in mind Carron presents in his exhibition at Kunsthalle Zürich a large group of sculptures that directly or indirectly relate to this circle of works of these institutions. The work Captain Legacy (2006) imitates a fragment of drapery of a gallic-roman marble statue which is housed in the foundation. Untitled [Henry Moore] (2006), a sculpture of a local 80’s artist who was influenced by Henry Moore; Trikorn (2006) continues the repetitions, a sculpture which is based on a stone head of a local artist, who in turn took his inspiration from a bronze sculpture within the foundation Gianadda.

Valentin Carron works in the areas of sculpture, painting and installation. The artist also frequently uses sound in his works. He reproduces real objects or elements with a symbolically charged meaning from his own environment as well as from broader cultural contexts. He releases the objects from their environment and gives them new form as reproductions, which are true to the original, in synthetic materials, as copies, substitutes, relics, that again put their cultural significance or multiple reinterpretation up for discussion in a different way. For example, when he reproduces the shape of the cross in a coarse polyester resin, prints on ad posters emblems and images that he found in public spaces and which come from a subjective desire rather than a logo culture, or replicates historical cannons in cheap materials.

Carron chooses forms that have mostly lost their original meaning – forms we find in the large halls of history of our daily and particular obsessions. He incorporates art’s symbolic formal world in a game equivalent of repetitions and “exposure” by for example taking parts from the oeuvre of Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti, which have by now become standard

forms of a so-called modern art, and whose symbolic power of expression and artistic relevance have lost their potency thanks to the countless replicas in a process of cultural deterioration. Or else he selects products from consumer culture such as plastic bottles and other objects he finds whose value is determined by their individual context or sub-cultural setting, but which have all facilitated a stratification and accumulation of different cultural and individual valuations. Carron does not “remove” all these layers, rather he succeeds in making these values, which have become unclear, visible through the artificial materials of his works, without giving them a cultural value himself – meaning, he does not make them tacky or turn them into art, but presents their pure forms, time and again also with sharp irony or criticism, for discussion.

Valentin Carron is continuing the tradition of artists who, by means of appropriation and reproduction, offer a cultural analysis in their works. Pieces by Fischli/Weiss and Mike Kelley can be mentioned as role models. And precisely because Carron very often refers to the strong cultural heritage of his native canton Wallis, an example of perfect tourist invention with an “authentic” identity in the 19th century, he succeeds in breaching the gap between the personal and the collective.

Carron conducts in effect socio-political research. In all of his works a central role is played by the “public/private” relationship, where he investigates the forms of the public sphere, of public customs, use and the divergent reuse of things in the light of his individual political implications. Thus he named one of his solo exhibitions Rellik; the title spans an associative field stretching from religious connotations to describing the relic, Carron’s field of work. At the same time, read backwards, the title says “killer” and is also the pseudonym of the first graffiti artist in Carron’s hometown of Martigny. Carron’s works always contain a reference to a particular place. At the same time they are deliberately ambivalent commentaries on how objects were used and misused in their employement for individual or collective intentions, constructions or political contexts.

Kunsthalle Zürich thanks: Präsidialdepartement der Stadt Zürich, Luma Stiftung, Erna und Curt Burgauer Stiftung, Ernst und Olga Gubler-Hablützel Stiftung