Nancy Fouts reveals that behind the clean silhouettes of her mischievous surrealist sculpture, for which she is well known, lies a more visceral, rich and complex formal language. As a long time collector and traveller, she has over many years built up an intriguing bank of objects, religious iconography, pendants and trinkets.
In “Artifact” the act of collecting, something that has always informed her unique understanding of the conceptual and formal qualities of an object, is interrogated and the figure of the ‘collector as connoisseur’ is strategically dismantled. Fouts collects as an outsider, a wandering magpie-like gatherer who mines history’s remains, blind to the meaning, the peculiarities and the symbolic weight of the objects she finds. On vintage chess boards and weathered wood a miniature charm of a violin lies beside a cross, a primitive spearhead beside a clock face, a shield of arms on oak wood fight for space among littered whistles, pendants, knives and antique domestic objects.
Her complex arrangements can be seen as experimental world maps or a game of risk in which the strategist and the luck seeker are forced to play the same game of interpretation. In her playful cartography Fouts fabricates a new language, an unrecognisable hieroglyph which confuses and stuns our logic of interpretation. These impressive installations continue the artist’s legacy: as she re-contextualises and de-values the most valued symbols of our time, while simultaneously elevating the forgotten or overlooked, Fouts re-wires the mind to look and re-look, to learn and unlearn.
In the process she demonstrates, though her trademark wit, that the specificities and ‘mystical’ qualities unique to one object or symbol, can be stretched, moulded, diminished, displaced and even replicated: within this body of work it is nearly impossible to distinguish the original found object and the many reproductions re-cast in similar materials by the artist. As she antagonises historical memory, religious mysticism, authenticity and authorship —conflating the practices of collecting the old and making the new— she gracefully claims her status as one of PAG’s most accomplished conceptual crafters.