Guillaume Le­blon Back to the IAC

Art Press - - ANAMNÈSE -

Work by Guillaume Le­blon has been seen in group shows at the Ins­ti­tut d’Art Contem­po­rain in Villeur­banne, but this is the time the ins­ti­tute has fea­tu­red him in a so­lo ex­hi­bi­tion (June 6-Au­gust 24). Concei­ved as a pro­me­nade and an art­work in its own right, this pre­sen­ta­tion once again de­mons­trates the pic­to­ria­li­ty and di­ver­si­ty of his prac­tice, of­ten wron­gly thought of as pu­re­ly sculp­tu­ral. In fact, he draws on ma­ny me­diums and ico­no­gra­phic sources to make work in which dif­ferent tem­po­ra­li­ties and dia­logues with the vi­sible pro­duce a re­la­tion­ship with the world that may be poe­tic or rough-hewn, dis­creet or stron­gly de­cla­ra­tive.


At the ope­ning of the Guillaume Le­blon ex­hi­bi­tion at the Ins­ti­tut d’Art Contem­po­rain de Villeur­banne, there was much talk about its enig­ma­tic and confoun­ding sub­title, À dos

de che­val avec le peintre (On Hor­se­back with the Pain­ter), bor­ro­wed from a W. G. Se­bald poem. Why, and with what (obs­cure) mo­ti­va­tion did this ar­tist, whose place in the "French ar­tis­tic land­scape is so of­ten gi­ven as "sculp­tor," want to at­test to his at­tach­ment to pain­ting? Such in­ter­ro­ga­tions, not so say an­guish, are tes­ta­ment to the eter­nal se­pa­ra­tion wall bet­ween ar­tis­tic prac­tices that is pro­ba­bly more pro­ble­ma­tic in France than in other coun­tries, to an extent that, it must be said, verges on ca­ri­ca­ture in cer­tain circles. Anyone who knows this ar­tist and his work un­ders­tands that pain­ting, and, more ge­ne­ral­ly, representation, has al­ways been not per­iphe­ral but cen­tral to his concerns and thin­king. He clear­ly un­ders­tands the power of images, whe­ther men­tal or de­ri­ved from art his­to­ry or a visual an­thro­po­lo­gy, so­me­times re­cal­led, so­me­times re­si­dual; sur­faces and how to oc­cu­py them, upend them and trans­form them; and the pro­ce­du­ral and ac­ci­den­tal qua­li­ties of pic­tures-in­be­co­ming, and the pos­si­bi­li­ties of other me­diums such as sculp­ture, ci­ne­ma and pho­to­gra­phy to pro­duce them. Not to men­tion the at­mos­pheres, evo­ca­tions and mises

en-scène of the vi­si­bi­li­ty pro­du­ced by this ar­tist's pieces, and its ico­no­gra­phic and the­ma­tic re­sur­gences. All these ele­ments un­der­line his dea­lings with a pic­to­ria­li­ty, as la­tent, sub­ter­ra­nean, bu­ried and in­ter­fe­red with as it may be. Fi­nal­ly, we could men­tion his fer­tile in­tel­lec­tual bonds with pain­ters like Mi­riam Cahn and Marc Des­grand­champs, whose work, in the eyes of a Pa­ri­sian art world that is so ta­ken with clas­si­fi­ca­tions and ghet­toi­za­tions, seem in­com­pa­tible— which is what makes it so in­ter­es­ting—with Le­blon’s aes­the­tics, as in­de­fi­nable and even less sum­ma­ri­zable as they may be.


The Aus­trian com­po­ser Al­ban Berg once said that a cur­tain poor­ly ope­ned or clo­sed could ruin an ope­ra. The same could be said for an ex­hi­bi­tion meant to be an art­work in its own right. In de­si­gning the ex­hi­bi­tion layout for the IAC, Le­blon was able to dodge that risk by concei­ving a dis­play that is ope­ra­tio­nal from the first piece to the last, liable to no cri­ti­cism other than an ex­cess of per­fec­tion. Few ar­tists can boast such a pe­ne­tra­ting vi­sion of their own work, of its in­ter­nal and or­ga­nic lo­gic. Few can so ap- pro­pria­te­ly ar­ti­cu­late the pieces to each other to ge­ne­rate a co­herent and per­sua­sive nar­ra­tive, in­ser­ting bra­vu­ra and cae­su­ra at just the right places and times, each in­eluc­ta­bly rein­for­cing the other. The flui­di­ty of the progression in Le­blon's ex­hi­bi­tion is like that of the Ri­chard Wa­gner score Thomas Mann prai­sed for its Be­zie­hung­szau­ber (the ma­gic of lin­ked se­quences or the mi­racle of con­nec­tions). You are struck by this ma­gic the minute you walk in­to the first ex­hi­bi­tion room where the piece first made at Saint-Na­zaire (

Faces contre terre, 2010) is li­te­ral­ly top­ped by a plas­ter cur­ved cur­tain. (2010) Both bear wit­ness to the as­so­cia­tion with pain­ting an­noun­ced and pro­noun­ced by the ex­hi­bi­tion's sub­title. The for­mer— made of re­cy­cled ele­ments whose com­mon de­no­mi­na­tor is to have a flat sur­face, put to­ge­ther to make a kind of abs­tract patch­work quilt of se­pa­rate items on the floor, co­ve­ring the en­tire room—is an “im­pure” tip of the hat to cer­tain trends, be­cause of its horizontal po­si­tion and site spe­ci­fi­ci­ty, in Mi­ni­mal and Concep-

tual art, with which Le­blon's sen­si­bi­li­ty, in terms of ge­nea­lo­gi­cal re­flexes, has clear­ly too of­ten been as­so­cia­ted, even if his man­ner of ta­king over ex­hi­bi­tion and "ins­ti­tu­tio­nal" spaces, to mo­di­fy or al­ter them, so­me­times dis­creet­ly and so­me­times os­ten­ta­tious­ly, could re­call, for example, the in­ter­ven­tions of so­meone like Mi­chael Asher. The cur­tain, in turn, al­most to­tal­ly strip­ped of the fa­cul­ty of hi­ding or se­pa­ra­ting, has been al­lo­wed to per­fect­ly dis­play its pain­ter­ly qua­li­ties, sho­wing through the folds of the un­du­la­ting ma­te­rial. The he­ri­tage vi­sible in it conveys its place in the rich his­to­ry of sculp­ted dra­pe­ry, a his­to­ry that flows throu­ghout the ex­hi­bi­tion like a leit­mo­tif.


Vi­si­tors are in­vi­ted to walk down a spe­cial­ly set-up cor­ri­dor run­ning along­side the IAC that seems to be an ex­ten­sion of the cur­tain's curve, and then, once they come in­side again, find them­selves face to face with the trun­ca­ted cube cal­led Na­tio­nal Mo­nu­ment (2006-2014). By means of a ve­ry spe­ci­fic dy­na­mic pro­cess, it re­flects the im­bri­ca­tion of time and space, time across space, and (hid­den) vo­lume and sur­face. The clay cube has been sa­wed in­to two dif­ferent-si­zed parts, which are pla­ced in ad­joi­ning rooms and wrap­ped in dra­pe­ry that ab­sorbs and oozes the hu­mi­di­ty gi­ven off by the wa­te­red clay. Ma­ny of the pieces in this show are ba­sed on the clash bet­ween two- and three-di­men­sio­nal vec­tors and the en­tan­gle­ment of spa­tial and tem­po­ral da­ta. They in­clude de- and re­con­tex­tua­li­zed rea­dy-made ele­ments, as well as ob­jects made by the ar­tist or de­le­ga­ted to sub­con­trac­tors. The most­ly cheap ma­te­rials he uses or mi­suses are of­ten contras­ted with one ano­ther and form a broad spec­trum of com­bi­na­to­rial and sty­lis­tic pos­si­bi­li­ties. An­thro­po- and zoo­mor­phic, mo­ving or im­mo­bile, these pieces are in­fu­sed with a syn­tax that can be "fi­gu­ra­tive" or abs­tract and/or de­pendent on the fluc­tua­ting laws of geo­me­try, che­mis­try or phy­sics, or at­mos­phe­ric or hy­gro­me­tric condi­tions. These pieces are in­va­ria­bly he­te­ro­ge­neous, pri­vi­le­ging, ins­tead of the cer­tain­ty of a com­for­ting sta­bi­li­ty, the pre­ca­rious­ness and un­pre­dic­ta­bi­li­ty of vul­ne­rable or pro­ce­du­ral si­tua­tions stee­ped in doubt, des­pite the air of as­su­rance they give off, and de­fy any fixi­ty that could les­sen their po­ten­tial for ex­pan­sion and mu­ta­tion. This prin­ciple of he­te­ro­ge­nei­ty al­so marks the stra­te­gies of anam­ne­sis that su­per­im­pose dis­join­ted tem­po­ra­li­ties on all forms of ins­tan­ta­neous­ness and am­ne­sia.


Le­blon's work is full of me­mo­ries and re­mi­nis­cences. Some of these me­mo­ries and re­mi­nis­cences re­fer to the his­to­ry of these pieces and, as a co­rol­la­ry, the ve­nues where they were first shown, like for ins­tance, Four

Lad­ders (2008), reins­tal­led in the same place where the IAC had shown them be­fore. But there are al­so me­mo­ries and re­mi­nis­cences of flee­ting, eva­nes­cent images that are now crys­tal­li­zed in sce­na­rios that are of­ten im­pro­bable and al­ways sur­pri­sing, like, for example, Man­teau (2014), ins­pi­red, ac­cor­ding to the wall text writ­ten by the ar­tist, by "a wo­man in Van­cou­ver cros­sing the street in the rain, her coat over her head. Gia­co­met­ti went back to his stu­dio in the rain, his head pul­led down bet­ween his shoul­ders." The ex­hi­bi­tion layout is full of snatches of me­mo­ry, re­col­lec­tions and lin­ge­ring mo­ments. Some pieces are so dis­creet as to al­most slip away and di­sap­pear, with the de­li­be­rate risk that they might go un­no­ti­ced. Others have a po­wer­ful hie­ra­tic pre­sence, such as Lost Friend (che­val) Lost friend

(chien), one of Le­blon’s la­test works, concei­ved on site. These pieces could be consi­de­red concen­tra­tions of the contra­dic­to­ry vec­tors that drive Le­blon’s prac­tice. The two plas­ter im­prints of ani­mal man­ne­quins per­ched on a me­tal ar­ma­ture re­present se­ve­ral theo­re­ti­cal­ly ir­re­con­ci­lable nar­ra­tives. This piece gives off an air of mys­te­ry. The same is true of Ch­ry­so­cales (2006-2013). Clo­sed in be­hind in­ter­wo­ven re­flec­tive cop­per, zinc and tin al­loys are ob­jects ta­ken from Le­blon's dai­ly life and now hid­den from view. These contai­ners of life evoke and convoke yet ano­ther nar­ra­tive, this ar­tist's life, thus de­mons­tra­ting, as if it were ne­ces­sa­ry, that his work can­not be de­ta­ched from pri­vate au­to­bio­gra­phi­cal fac­tors. Bet­ween vi­si­bi­li­ty and in­vi­si­bi­li­ty, rough­ness and sen­suous­ness, proxi­mi­ty and dis­tance, pu­blic and pri­vate spaces, be­fore and af­ter, his work to­day com­mands an in­dis­pu­table au­tho­ri­ty.

Trans­la­tion, L-S Tor­goff

Erik Ve­rha­gen teaches con­tem­po­ra­ry art his­to­ry at the Uni­ver­si­té de Valenciennes.

De haut en bas / from top: « La grande seiche ». 2014. Plâtre, mousse, encre po­ly­uré­thane, pein­ture au spray. 202 x101x14cm. (Court. ga­le­rie Jo­ce­lyn Wolff ; Ph. F. Dou­ry). Plas­ter, po­ly­ure­thane foam, spray paint, cut­tle­fish ink « Lost Friend (chien) » ; « Lost Friend (che­val) ». Vue de l’ex­po­si­tion « À dos de che­val avec le peintre ». 2014. IAC, Villeur­banne. (© B. Adi­lon)

« Ch­ry­so­cale (Double Bed). 2013. Ma­te­las, cuivre, étain, zinc. 188 x 140 x 30 cm (Court. ga­le­rie Jo­ce­lyn Wolff ; Ph. Art Evans - Mass Moca). Mat­tress, pillows, com­for­ter and al­loy of cop­per, tin, zinc

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