Veilhan’s geometric, 9-foot-high “The Bear” stands outside the Phillips.
If you think the art in Xavier Veilhan’s Phillips Collection exhibition “IN(Balance)” — the sculptures, the mobiles, the paintings and the photo-based works, both abstract and figurative — is all over the place, you should see where he works.
“You’d be surprised; in my studio, there is a lot of junk,” the French multimedia artist says. “My natural tendency is like the natural tendency of everything, which is to become a mess. Art, for me, could be seen as attempt to escape the mess. To put things in order.”
The exhibit does provide order for Veilhan’s varied pieces, though they share little in common other than precise workmanship and glossy finishes.
“For me, the pieces are connected because I’ve done them all,” Veilhan jokes, adding that he loves the title “IN(Balance),” which was coined by Phillips Collection curator Vesela Sretenovic.
“I’m not very good at finding concepts to bridge [the pieces],” he says. “But this idea of equilibrium is interesting because my vision of reality in general is that it’s not a stable thing. It’s very uncertain.”
Veilhan doesn’t have a background in science, but he likes to read up on it.
“I am interested in the scientific approach, because it embraces wider realities than the ones that we see. I think art should be this way. What is invisible is real. And making art is making things visible.”
“Mobile n°2” (2011), above, reflects an abstract style.
Making a sculpture of a recognizable form, such as his 9-foot-high work “The Bear,” “is almost like doing a cover of a famous song,” he says. “It gives you a direct access to people who recognize it. That’s what I like.”
The exhibit features two sculptures of another identifiable figure: Veilhan himself. But don’t go reading too much into them.
“For me, they’re not really self-portraits. There is no attempt to show something psychologically about myself.” In fact, they exist only because Veilhan spent a lot of money to book a 3-D scanner and didn’t want any of the time to go to waste when some of his models fell through.
“I had a schedule of people who had to show up, and whenever somebody did not show up, I replaced him,” he says, laughing. “So I am interested in the idea of myself as another person.”
Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St. NW; through Feb. 10; 202-387-2151. (Dupont Circle)