From almost any angle, sculptor Bernard Pras’s latest installation, looks like a heap of junk: rusted chairs, a busted guitar, a cruddy old wheel barrow and an ugly couch. But stand in just the right spot and the pile morphs into the perfect likeness of a man. His name is Ferdinand Cheval and during his lifetime (1836-1924), he too created a sculpture that many people mistook for trash.
Using 3,500 bags of limestone, Cheval built a massive stone playground in his back yard in Hauterives, France. The work, Le Palais Idéal, took 33 years to complete and is an aesthetic enigma. Part Hindu temple, part decadent wedding cake, part elementary school art project, Cheval’s work only gained recognition toward the end of his life. He worked a day job as a postman, so few people took him seriously.
Bernard Pras’s junk-heap likeness of Cheval is an homage to the civil servant of course, but it’s also a tribute to all artists who obsessively struggle to create beauty from nothingness. It’s on display now at Le Palais Idéal.