Ascending to the minimalist white sanctum of the Kerlin Gallery for Nathalie Du Pasquier’s exhibition “Twice in Dublin,” one found it transformed into another sort of sacred space. A tall portal painted in matte black recalled, with its inclined sides, the pylons of the Temple of Ptah in the first-dynasty Egyptian city of Memphis. From that temple, the postmodern design group cofounded by Du Pasquier along with Ettore Sottsass and others, took its name. Egypt is an ancient as well as a recent preoccupation for the artist. Last year, she illustrated a new Italian edition of Gustave Flaubert’s letters from Egypt, a racy account of his 1849 trip with Maxime du Camp. Here, on gallery walls painted a flat desert tan, Du Pasquier’s black architectural interventions interrupted and rearranged the space. A long black L form at the rear of the gallery gave the impression of a void, loosely inverting the entrance stairway. Colore was disegno in this installation.
Around the gallery were assemblages that recombined paintings on paper, produced over the past twenty years, that Du Pasquier had excavated from her studio. In the 2000s, she painted towers of cups, bowls, and other domestic objects on a grand scale. Now, many of the paintings themselves were stacked. Vertical ensembles such as Shelf, A still life, Swiss life, and Top (all works 2022) comprise three oil-on-paper modules, about twenty-eight by thirty-nine inches each, one on top of the other. In the horizontal piece A long line, the black and white stripes typical of Memphis design have morphed into the blue and white stripes of Cornish stoneware, a type of crockery often found in rural Irish homes. Moving toward abstraction, Du Pasquier now creates models of impossible still lifes. Shapes that don’t represent anything, or the sparse arrangement of objects at the center of Stones on shelf, or the Swiss flag at the top of Swiss life bring her work closer to a study of painting itself and its histories. Constructed and Clicke tyclac are built similarly: a bottom panel in ultramarine with a text bubble, then a precise rendering of a real or mythic machine in the middle, and at the top a trompe l’oeil floor plan, like a painted rendering of one of Malevich’s “arkhitektons” of 1919–32. The same formula repeats across assemblages: Sketches of engines and mechanical parts feature in many of the central panels, connecting the early-twentieth-century avant-garde with the postwar and the postmodern, albeit with a light touch, une touche légère. The words TUUUT and CLICKE TYCLAC, captured in these floor-level sound poems, point us toward Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s Futurist poem, Zang Tumb Tuuum, published in Milan (Du Pasquier’s home since 1979) between 1912 and 1914. Tuuut is a warning noise, according to the artist. As political tendencies of the early twentieth century reemerge in disturbing ways in Italy and elsewhere, so too do they resurface in art. Debates around postmodernism, as well as fascism, long dormant, were reanimated in this thoughtful reshuffling of the artist’s cabinet.
— Eva Kenny