« Baklawa and Middle Eastern Pastries in Paris | Main | Slick: the Only Art Fair Worth Going to this Season »

Traumaturgical Trendencies on Parade at ShowOff

J. Christian Guerrero writing for I V Y paris

Show off Beyond their inherent treatment of art as commerce, contemporary art fairs - such as ShowOff,  the first of many opening this week and on display at Espace Pierre Cardin (1 av. Gabriel in the 8th, Mo. Concorde lines 1, 8 & 12) - always open a strange window onto how the zeitgeist is captured by those curious souls who devote themselves to producing miracles of aesthetic insight.

Judging from the basis of ShowOff's offerings, rarely have the borders between the transformative powers of art and the contingencies presented by technological, political and socioeconomic 'powers that be' been in such a tense state of stand-off. The grounding principles of any artist's work should always transcend mundane contexts at the same time that they illuminate them with implicit degrees of  instigated critical dialogue.

A few pieces at ShowOff achieve this delicate balance, which simply given the somewhat cluttered staging and sheer volume of the vast number of works on display is no mean feat - but only after having differentiated clearly what can be called mere participation in current aesthetic "trendencies" from the consistently urgent necessity of true artistic statements.

The risk of confusing aesthetic imperatives with merely decorative pleasantries forms one of two themes running with unquestionable consistency throughout ShowOff's aggregation of works from a wide-ranging collection of European artists.

If one of the key differences between 'art' and 'design' consists of the refusal of art to employ beauty as a mere means of negating complex engagements with conceptual content, it can definitely be said that an unsettling number of the pieces on display at ShowOff unabashedly belong more safely to 'design' rather than 'art' - especially those which attempt to approach the complex legacies of abstract expressionism.

Larsen The other consistent theme is a clear negotiation of the meaning of flesh, youth and death in an era in which commodifications of humanity pervasively cover the relationship of images to notions of self-image. Inversions of the dynamics of iconography into resolutely secular contexts abound.

Standout examples of this can be found in Eric Pougeau's passport-photo self-portrait which, stapled over, uses an ingeniously minimalist gesture to suggest a pure refusal of consumption.

Nikolaj Larsen's life-sized photographs of two figures, "Chris" and "Chloë" (above), also consummately represent this confrontation of depersonalization, mummified as they are beyond any hope of human identification in commercial packaging tape respectively labeled "REJECT" and "FRAGILE."

Where these two themes intersect most strongly is in the many works which bear explicitly political content. The two standout pieces in this regard are both by Russian artist Andrei Molodkin, whose large painting "Who Is Afraid Of The Democratic Death" is roughly and simply executed in an American currency green on white and features a pair of skulls, each mimetically denying the other's potential representation of an individual human life as well as together suggesting the notion of an ironically dead collectivity, over the text of the title in an authoritative Roman typeface.

$ Molodkin Molodkin's elaborate sculpture "$ - Fuck You" (partly featured left) is by and large the absolute standout of the entire show. Like a toxic flower of contemporary industry, one can actually smell the sculpture from adjacent rooms long before one encounters it.

Comprised of an elaborate system of pneumatic pumps distributing varying levels of crude oil in perpetual circulation between clear acrylic bricks hollowed out to spell the message of the title, the piece itself suggests that it is uncannily breathing like the most menacing sort of inhuman lifeform.

The confrontational message of the title falls in thoroughly ironic counterpoint to the very functioning of the piece itself, which, distributing the dark elixir of industry through the characters which spell the title, directly informs the viewer that the very message of the piece - indeed the majority of its simple legibility - remains helplessly dependent upon the automated circulation of a product entirely external and inherently indifferent to the message itself.

Although it is encouraging to find so many artists on exhibition at ShowOff so obviously concerned with the critical role played by art in the championing of humanity, one leaves the show wishing that the stakes of contemporary work did not have to be so consistently concerned with addressing this topic from such mournful positions - positions which are not ameliorated, but in fact only exacerbated by confusions of artistic statements with the niceties of pretty design.

The message of the show in sum is that we are currently in an age aesthetically determined by profound contradictions between the celebration of beauty and the sobering experience of the sublime.

Bonapart Paris apartments


Molodkin's sculpture "$ - Fuck You" made me want to die. I can't believe that it was legal to be pumping all that carbon monoxide and compressed air into the space.

But Adrian, my man - that was so much a part of the point!

Post a comment

Search the site

Paris Resources

Picture 12     360fashionLOGO1
More sites to explore...


Site notices

  •  Subscribe in a reader

    Add to My AOL

    Subscribe in Bloglines

    Add to Google

    Copyright © Susie Hollands.