The work of sculptor and installation artist Not Vital is a curious mixture of old-world European traditions, contemporary American culture, and African tribal society. Vital was born and raised in Sent, a village in the remote, mountainous Engadine region in southeastern Switzerland. He studied art at the Centre Universitaire Expérimental de Vincennes in Paris before moving to New York in 1974. He has always traveled extensively and currently spends his time between Sent, New York City, Agadez, Niger, and Lucca, Italy. Not Vital’s nomadic life is an important aspect of his artistic process. As he has stated “The real studio is in my head – in a way, it’s everywhere I go.”
The exhibition, Not Vital’s first museum exhibition in the United States, includes ten works executed between 1993 and 2006, a series of drawings executed in 2003, and the film Not Vital. Agadez. (2005)
The result of Vital’s travels and sojourns around the world is a body of work melancholy in its elegance, chilling in its simplicity, and always hauntingly beautiful. Memories and echoes of what is within, underneath, and surrounding the work is ever-present. In Camel (2004), the sun-dried remains of a desert camel are encased within 16 silver spheres. Bremer Stadtmusikanten (2004) contains the remains of four animals; a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster enclosed in minimal silver boxes and stacked one on top of the other. The containers represent the animals in the Grimm Brother’s fairytale “The Bremen Town Musicians,” who stand on each other to observe the thieves they then frighten away with their music. In 3000 Tears (2003), 3000 tears are carved into a large rectangular slab of white marble that balances on a silver base, echoing Brancusi’s dialogue between the base and the work. In 50 Snowballs (2001) Murano glass opaque “snow” balls are cast within clear “ice” balls and placed across the gallery floor, while a wall of “snowballs” made from thrown plaster is installed in the adjoining gallery.
Also included in the exhibition is a film about Vital’s house to watch the sunset in Agadez, Niger. Captivated by the view of the sunset in the desert, and to the great
surprise of the natives he lives amongst, Vital built a house purely for this purpose. A sculpture in its own right, the house if comprised of three stories, each level has its own set of stairs and its own, unique view of the sunset.