A few years ago, Alan Schmalz conceived an installation composed of three sculptures: tall figures made from wooden sticks, anchored by feet molded in concrete. Armed with plastic bags to carry their belongings and waterproof their feet, smiles imprinted on their faces, they are ready to face the pursuits of life walking tall. This project is emblematic of the way Schmalz centers his artistic practice thematically on cultivating human dignity to evolve in and confront alienating social structures. While in that installation the focus fell on the figure—the individuals—the artist’s new project for James Fuentes Online spotlights the backdrop, the stage, and the underlying machinery that expands this resonance of the person.
This new series of watercolors is systematized by Schmalz in a specific order, structured by three chapters and their prologue. It opens with three pieces (Prologue A, Prologue B, Prologue C) composed of motifs that recollect an industrial setting through an ensemble of smoking chimneys, pointed roofs, pistons, and cogwheels. Reminiscent of comic strips, strange disruptive organisms also appear from portals within the image. Next, a human skeleton catapults stiffly toward a well-oiled machine, concluding the prologue by it breaking down.
Question marks litter the first page of the first chapter, announcing the title of the series: Ordinary Enigmas. The image evokes a game at a cellular level; a game of manipulation, one to be staged by numbered sequences and the classification of visuals, appearing to revitalize itself by consuming human flesh. Later, Schmalz drops in words as clues that could potentially reveal his thought and fabrication process, although in paradox they tend to complexify the game mindset. Despite being deployed in a well-conceived structure, the narrative of these works is not linear. Tempted to deploy a loop or spiral, Schmalz instead plays down his watercolor morphologies by dispersing them. Together becoming more like a cloud, these works cultivate a certain synergy between their dynamic components.
Alan Schmalz is a Swiss artist born in 1987. He has presented solo exhibitions at La Rose, Marseille; Sentiment, Zürich; Centre d'art Le LAIT, Albi, France; and Truth and Consequences, Geneva; a two-person exhibition at Weiss Falk, Basel with Timothee Calame; and group exhibitions at Swiss Institute, New York; Clearing, Bruxelles; and The Box, Los Angeles. He studied at Haute Ecole d'art et de design de Genève (HEAD). Schmalz lives and works in Marseille.
Organized by Paul-Aymar Mourgue D'Algue.