La Casetta Rossa
Installation in situ
House in orange, house in yellow, hothouse, house burning, house on fire, burning down the house.
And at the same time, a house on a millennial property carefully nourished and guided by generations of the Sallier de La Tour family, proprietors of a large estate in central Sicily, not too far from Palermo, and a short distance from Monreale.
Nicolas Boulard is the 2023 invited artist to the Pernice Artist Residency, so-titled after the hamlet that lends the project its name.
Hailing from a vaunted champagne-producing family himself, Boulard knows the viticulture practiced by the Sallier de La Tour family well, from the ground up, so to speak.
Nicolas Boulard is from the Champagne region in France, and his familiarity with agriculture and its traditions, both botanically, and ethnographically, inflect his artwork since many years.
His project in Pernice, a visual takeover of an abandoned farm building, victim to changes in agricultural production, changes in labor, is a purposeful eschewing of the many other options he might have had, as a suitable canvas for his work.
Boulard practices art in the sense of production of meaning; his ample gifts in Gestaltung subjugated to a quest to create a philosophical signage that doesn’t read as his so much as a necessary mark.
For the Pernice project, he has created an image of an incandescent building, aglow, or afire, in the hot Sicilian countryside. It’s a visual mock-up for now, an image as a sketch. But this is already an end product, in some way, as with his statement, les jeux sont faits.
No reference to the people. No reference to the crops. No reference to the gracious buildings that house an important Sicilian hospitality structure, replete with swimming pool, a first-class wine cellar, kitchen, and banqueting possibilities. No reference to the family that has tended this property, no reference to his host, the young prince, an artist, Paolo Sallier de La Tour.
Boulard is looking at Claes Oldenburg, and at Allen Ruppersberg. He is dreaming of merging the imagery of American Minimalism and Pop with the politics of Conceptual art, and of the present. He aims to fix the inscrutability of contemporary art with an image that bows to art on its terms but is easily legible, not only in Sicily, and as art, but as an image to be understood by all.
He has used the tradition of collage, of montage, of suggestion, availed himself of the cubes of Robert Morris and Michelangelo Pistoletto, of Robert Smithson and Sol LeWitt, to create what is hoped, and what is, a universal image.
It’s an image that both channels its physical place, and yet, works in the ether of intra-art meaning. It’s a cry for help, for an ever-heating planet, and an expression of what graphic design can attain, within the framework of art. To change perception and attitudes.
With climate naysayers and the globe spinning into its endgame, Boulard has simply summed up the situation in one of Italy’s hot- test areas, where record heat waves, and altered temperature have already changed regional agriculture substantially.
Rather than supply an image for the promotion of any one agenda, he has used his own practice as a vehicle to cry for a larger cause, to shout, and to fume.
This image of an incandescent house was created months before some of the most cataclysmic fires ever engulfed vast parts of California, and many other regions, in the summer of 2023.
It is an image addressed to an island where pyromania is a desperate sport practiced by impotent, destructive, and suicidal individuals, unable to corral their feelings into other than violence.
It is an image of destruction and danger.
And in this encapsulating message, so simple, so memorable, and so arresting, lies its hope.
Cornelia Lauf – 2023