Critic's Guide: Paris

Basim Magdy, Bharti Kher, Alicja Kwade, and more: A round-up of the best current shows in the capital

BY Vivian Sky Rehberg in Critic's Guides | 18 OCT 16

Alicja Kwade, 2016, preview image. Courtesy: the artist and kamel mennour, Paris/London © Alicka Kwade; photograph: Roman März

Alicja Kwade
Galerie Kamel Mennour
11 October – 26 November

From a titular perspective, Alicja Kwade’s exhibition ‘In Aporie’ embraces paradox and doubt, represented most literally here in the epistolary series ‘Being…’ (2006-11). Kwade copied the handwriting of well-known historical figures like Marie Curie and Nicola Tesla, and then submitted the letters to graphologists for personality analyses. Do these forged scripts expose an unwavering ontological truth about their authors, nestled in the slants and spaces of written words? Or does Kwade’s writerly ventriloquism debunk the pseudoscience and its identifications? Her installation Durchbruch durch Schwäche (Through Weakness You Break Through, 2009-16), comprised of hundreds of antique and modern clock weights, each attached to the floor or ceiling by their cables and chains, stabilizes the mood via gravitational pull. This forest of weights recalls the clocks’ absent chimes, which silently resonate with Kwade’s mute Hypothetische Gebilde (Hypothetical Shapes, 2016), belled copper tubes twisted into geometric sculptures inspired by wormholes.

Basim Magdy, No Shooting Stars, 2016, film still. Courtesy: the artist © Basim Magdy, 2016; co-comissioned by Jeu de Paume, Paris; Fondation Nationale des Arts Graphiques et Plastiques; and CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux

Basim Magdy
Jeu de Paume, Programmation Satellite 9
18 October 2016 – 15 January 2017

As part of ‘Our Ocean, Your Horizon’, the Jeu de Paume’s Satellite programme, curated by Heidi Ballet, Basim Magdy presents his latest film No Shooting Stars (2016) and a small framed collection of associated pictures. Delving into the mysteries reserved in our ocean’s depths, which have resisted colonizing urges, unlike outer space, No Shooting Stars infers the sea might be a sentient body. It does so via a script that edges, like a wave, toward the poignant realm of Magdy’s reworked analogue and digital images. Magdy turns the entire oceanic surface and the dark sea floor, populated by strange creatures and littered with submarine communication cables, into a base for his own exploratory fiction.

Anicka Yi, The Last Diamond, 2015, installation view, Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, 2015. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: © Philipp Hänger

‘Faisons de l’inconnu un allié’
Lafayette Anticipation Fondation d’entreprise Galeries Lafayette
11 October – 23 October

This group exhibition focuses on artist research and production supported by the Galeries Lafayette Foundation, under the artistic leadership of François Quintin and a ‘curatorial college’ of associates. ‘Faisons de l’inconnu un allié’ (Joining Forces with the Unknown) is located in the former Weber Metal hardware store, a Marais neighbourhood landmark, while the foundation awaits the completion of its OMA-refurbished building nearby. Research and production is highlighted in art and design works that rely on manual labour and material results, like the handbags made on site by Mary Ping’s conceptual clothing line Slow and Steady Wins the Race, or scientific processes and ephemeral outcomes, like Anicka Yi’s The Last Diamond (2015), a limited edition fragrance based on the idea of memory-loss.

'PARIS', 2016, exhibition view, Fondation d’entreprise Ricard, Paris. Courtesy: Fondation d’entreprise Ricard, Paris.

Fondation d’entreprise Ricard
6 September – 29 October

This is the 18th edition of the Prix Ricard, a yearly group exhibition sponsored by the Ricard spirits company’s foundation. Titled ‘Paris’ and curated by former laureate Isabelle Cornaro, this version feels less riven by cut-throat competition than by one artist’s sympathetic sensibility for the work of her peers: Will Benedict, Clément Cogitore, Julien Crépieux, Clarisse Hahn, Anne Imhof, Mélanie Matranga, Louise Sartor and Marie Voignier. While none of the works on display explicitly reference Paris, Cornaro symbolically groups all eight of them under the city’s aegis in a rather elegantly installed exhibition that includes a separate mini-cinema for the videos. In an interview for the ‘Paris’ catalogue, Cornaro outlines her selection as one that seeks to locate a common ground amongst the artists and to register possible exchanges between the works. Amongst them, Sartor’s tiny insouciant paintings, torn scraps resembling snapshots or magazine advertisements, shout the loudest, thanks to their relative discretion.

Kira Freije, included in ‘The Next Event and Its Content’, Occidental Temporary, Paris. Courtesy: the artist

‘The Next Event and Its Content’
Occidental Temporary
16 October – 20 November

Artist Neïl Beloufa has transformed his Villejuif studio on the southern outskirts of Paris into Occidental Temporary, a sprawling exhibition and event space, which currently hosts no less than five projects involving some 40 artists and curators. Self-billed as a ‘mega-meta’ event, the project refuses to force connections between ‘artists we like and who work a lot’, and instead counts on our faith in those who have brought them together. The joyously irreverent Occidental Temporary (whose Facebook page features a green-paint-splashed hand flipping us the bird) offers a much needed, para-institutional, artist-centred local platform to a wide range of practices, artists and curators. This time OT features Vancouver art space 221A, a solo show of Kira Freije’s nutty and bolty, materially rich, sculptures, as well group presentations of collaborative painting, videos selected by Beloufa and Anatole Bard, and the provocatively titled ‘That Cool Decline,’ a revision in progress of the previous exhibition that perhaps contains a hint of a future iteration?

Bharti Kher, Six women, 2013-16, installation view, Vancouver Art Gallery, 2016. Courtesy: Vancouver Art Gallery; photograph: Maegan Hill-Carroll

Bharti Kher
Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin
19 October – 23 December

The centre-piece of this exhibition, titled ‘The Laws of Reversed Effort,’ is the female figure, Six Women (2013-16), to be exact, previously seen at the Sydney Biennale. These are life casts of female sex workers that Kher invited to her studio outside of New Delhi. Nameless, they have been presented aligned in a row, each seated on a wooden chair placed on a wooden platform. Kher’s luminous white plaster casts abstract and blur the women’s individual identities, making models out of them. The figures share a pose, a posture, and a hairstyle (a neat bun), a semblance that gathers them into formation. However, varied as they are in age, physical shape, and size, they promote no aesthetic ideal. Transported to Paris, these replicas will confront a long history of rendering the oldest profession, textbook subject matter for French painters during 19th century.

Liz Magor, Buckle, 2016, polymerized gypsum, 250 x 109 x 18 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Marcelle Alix, Paris

Liz Magor
Marcelle Alix and Le Crédac

Paris can count itself blessed to have two exhibitions of work by Liz Magor at the moment: the first, ‘Humidor’, in Belleville gallery Marcelle Alix, and the second, ‘The Blue One Comes in Black’, at Le Crédac art center in Ivry-sur-Seine. Though radically different in size and scale, the two exhibition venues provide an overview of her signature sculptures in polymerized gypsum, made from moulds of ordinary things, which have been indelibly imprinted and nearly invisibly transformed by the artist’s hands. Much of Magor’s work is evocative of the passage of time, of packing up, and of cultural memory. It’s tempting to associate Alberta/Quebec (2013) or Moth Proofed (2011) from a series of blankets draped over clothes hangers and suspended, or her silicon enveloped garments and goods (‘All the Names’ series 2014), with relics or remnants. But all of Magor’s stuff still sings with too much life force to be thus venerated.

Lead image: Cally Spooner, On False Tears and Outsourcing, 2016, documentation of performance, New Museum, New York. Courtesy: © Lafayette Anticipation. Currently included in: ‘Faisons de l’inconnu un allié’, Lafayette Anticipation Fondation d’entreprise Galeries Lafayette

Vivian Sky Rehberg is a course director of the Master of Fine Art at the Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. She lives in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.