‘She kissed him. Her lips were cold but the inside of her mouth was warm, delicious. He felt as he had kissed her always. They made out for five minutes; at some point she pushed him away. Her face was pale, almost translucent in the morning light. She said: look, there is no more wood, I am gonna go get some at the entrance.’
In her short story ‘The Ideal Husband’, Dorothée Dupuis sketches out a gloomy scenario about a small group of people sitting around a stove in a yard. The story is not so much a sequence of events but rather a description of an ambience. As part of the eponymous exhibition ‘The Ideal Husband’, the booklet is handed out to visitors upon leaving the exhibition, with an invitation to read the story, but not immediately.
‘The Ideal Husband’, an exhibition of work by Egon Van Herreweghe and Thomas Min, and curated by Domenico de Chirico, is primarily shaped by its location. The characteristics of the venue are taken as a starting point for this show, which is a careful survey of notions related to virility, masculinity and manhood in modern times. One enters the exhibition through the garage where blocks of firewood are piled up next to an old red Citroën. If masculinity corresponds with potency and strength, these details are anything but coincidental. ‘Wood Stove’ by Van Herreweghe and Min takes up the courtyard, almost as a living matter, both imposing and elegant. The stove, up and running and constructed by the artists, has a strong visual impact, reverberating on the entire exhibition: different colours of shiny metal, a small window offering a glimpse of the fire inside, and smoke that escapes through a tall chimney.
Inside the gallery space, Min’s ‘Cortina (arrangement of 8 sculptures)’ shares this sense of grandiosity. These eight concrete sculptures draw upon the shapes and patterns of outdoor grill installations, referring to certain standards of cosy suburban lifestyle. Embedded within these sculptures is also the artist’s interest in the complexity of the pedestal. Compared to a photographic image, imposing its viewpoint to the observer, the pedestal draws attention to what it supports. By combining the concrete masses of former barbecue sets with bluish volumes, Min destabilises the accordance between the pedestal and its object, and puts forward the ambiguity around what is being shown and what shows.
‘Im Nuit’ and ‘Sculpture Intense’ by Van Herreweghe fill the second gallery space and examine the adventurous landscapes in male perfume advertisements. The first work consists of a large dome shaped tent, The North Face brand, designed for harsh conditions on the highest mountains. Inside the tent, a video animation shows mountain tops that pierce the slender landscape of a fictitious continent seen from afar. While looking at the scenery’s shimmering reflection in the sea, one wonders whether we are approaching or, conversely, on our way back. Sculpture Intense is a poster depicting a similar romanticized landscape. The digital collage shows a summer scene with waterfalls and a sky blue backdrop. In the foreground is a cardboard model of a male torso that recalls Jean Paul Gaultier’s well known men’s fragrance ‘Le Male’. The subtitle Pour l’Homme Moderne reminds us that it is for the modern man.
In ‘The Ideal Husband’, meaning is produced through a relationship between the works and their context. The exhibition is both an exercise in looking as well as a balancing act between fragility and robustness. This is also the case for ‘Slim-Gym’ by Van Herreweghe. This compact fitness object in the courtyard acquired its meaning during a brief performance at the finissage. An unknown visitor used the Slim-Gym by lifting himself up and, slowly and gracefully, letting himself slide down. As soon as the young man finished his workout, he left the venue again.
By touching upon different contradictory aspects, ‘The Ideal Husband’ is not only questioning the superficiality of the perfect man; above all it playfully engages the viewer through countering expectations, asserting a distinct way of looking.