Critic’s Guide: Paris

Ahead of Paris Gallery Weekend, a round-up of the best shows to see in the French capital

BY Tom Jeffreys in Critic's Guides | 16 MAY 17

Alia Farid, ‘Between Dig and Display’, 2017. Courtesy: Imane Farès, Paris

Alia Farid
Imane Farès
18 May – 29 July 2017

For her first solo show at Galerie Imane Farès, Kuwaiti-Puerto Rican artist Alia Farid revisits ‘Acquiring Modernity’, the exhibition she curated for the Kuwait pavilion at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. There, Farid restaged the opening of the Kuwait National Museum. Or rather, its re-opening in 1983 in a series of Modernist concrete structures by French architect Michel Ecochard.

Now, Farid – whose work has ranged from public intervention and sculpture to video and traditional Islamic prayer rugs embroidered with images of Caribbean mosques – has refocused her attention on the museum’s collections. Bombed and plundered during the Iraqi invasion of 1991, the museum lost many of its historic and contemporary artefacts: Mesopotamian sculptures, slippers, coins and more. Farid has recreated them from surviving photographs in the museum archive. In so doing she continues her interrogation of the role of museums – as both inheritors of a troubled Modernist legacy and bastions of hope for the future.

HA Chong-Hyun, exhibition view at Almine Rech Gallery. Courtesy: the artist and Almine Rech Gallery Paris; photograph: Rebecca Fanuele

Ha Chong-Hyun
Almine Rech
22 April — 03 June 2017

Eighteen large-scale canvases make up Korean artist Ha Chong-Hyun’s debut exhibition with Almine Rech Gallery, his first solo show in France since 1999. While the majority of works date from between 2007 and 2016, the exhibition’s opening gambit is Untitled 72-C, a piece consisting of horizontal lines of barbed wire fastened tightly over cloth and mounted on panel. Ha made the piece in 1972.

Thereafter, the works on show are all paintings. Ha’s unusual technique involves applying oil paint to the back of hemp-cloth canvases, and pushing it laboriously through the gaps in the weave to create repeated patterns of thousands of tiny burls of varying thickness and depth. Ha then uses different implements to scrape the paint across the surface, creating flattened plains or thick ridges and piles. With a palette limited to black, white, and petrol-blue, Ha often produces works in pairs. The results are quiet but gently mesmerizing.

Liz Larner, exhibition view at Max Hetzler, 2017. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin and Paris; photograph: Charles Duprat. 

Liz Larner
Max Hetzler
4 May – 3 June 2017

Los Angeles-based artist Liz Larner’s latest work is a series of ceramic sculptures exploring material decay. Larner, who has produced abstract sculptures from a range of different materials including wood, paper, aluminium and gold, first started working with ceramic in the 1990s. Initially she attempted to overcome the imperfections inherent in the processes of glazing and firing, but gradually her work has come to embrace this relative loss of control.

On show at Max Hetzler are weighty, wall-mounted pieces, which are then coated with epoxy resin. The shimmering, multi-coloured surfaces are reminiscent of polished gemstones, but riven all over with cracks and fractures. Larner’s titles – caesura or subduction – link the works to other moments of creative rupture – in poetry or in tectonic geology. Elsewhere, Larner has incorporated stone and mineral samples into the calefaction series and the exhibition, her second at the gallery, also includes glazed ceramic floor-sculptures.

Marion Baruch, Arroser l’ivresse, 2017, fabric - 8 layers, 140 x 107 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Anne-Sarah Bénichou, Paris

Marion Baruch
Galerie Anne-Sarah Bénichou
20 May – 13 July 2017

Born in Romania in 1929, Marion Baruch has had a long and varied career. Her most successful period in the 1990s saw her living in Paris and signing her work ‘Name Diffusion’, a company that she registered in order to poke at straightforward notions of authorship and authenticity.

Since 2009, however, Baruch returned to using her own name. Coinciding with a partial loss of vision, Baruch’s latest works have sought to find beauty in the overlooked. Specifically, she has been working with left-over fabrics from the fashion houses in Milan (Baruch now lives to the north-west of the city in the province of Gallarate). The works consist of the monochrome pieces of fabric that remain unused when the clothing patterns have been cut out. Baruch simply pins them to the gallery wall and lets gravity do the rest. This is her first solo exhibition with Anne-Sarah Bénichou.

Nina Canell, exhibition view at le Crédac, 2017. Courtesy: le Crédac and galleries Barbara Wien and Daniel Marzona, Berlin. © André Morin / le Crédac

Nina Canell
Le Crédac
21 April – 25 June 2017

An exploration of material memory links the different pieces in ‘Dolphin Dandelion’, a solo exhibition for Swedish-born artist Nina Canell, who currently also has works on show in the Nordic pavilion at the Venice Biennale. At Le Crédac, once a manufacturer of metal eyelets, now a multi-purpose cultural centre, Canell has used materials known for their ability to act like archives of past events: water, chewing gum, neon strip-lights, fibre-optic cables and a dictaphone. Wires snake across the ground and motion sensors trigger high-pitched electrical noises from precarious-looking, floor-based contraptions.

Canell’s combination of makeshift technology and oddball humour respond adroitly to this huge, former industrial space to the south-east of Paris. There is something intrinsically funny about a building so big needed to produce something as small as an eyelet. In response, Canell has placed slices of cucumber inside old electricity distribution boxes. Cucumbers, like humans, conduct electricity. They too decay.

Ali Cherri, Somniculus, 2017, film set photography. Courtesy: the artist. Co-production: Jeu de Paume Paris, Fondation Nationale des Arts Graphiques et Plastiques and Capc-musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux.

Ali Cherri
Jeu de Paume
14 February – 28 May 2017

Of the three exhibitions currently running at Jeu de Paume, Ali Cherri’s short film on show on the lower-ground floor is perhaps the most intriguing. Somniculus (Latin for light sleep) sees Lebanon-born artist Cherri continue his long-running engagement with the politics of archaeology and anthropology. The film alternates between close-ups of Cherri asleep in a pristine white bed, and footage of his night-time wonderings around some of Paris’ best-known museums.

The eye is a central motif throughout. While asleep, Cherri’s own eyes are lightly closed and twitching. In the museums, he shines his flashlight into the eyes of sundry statues and totems taken from their original contexts and displayed in these great museums. The glass eyes of a stuffed bear reflect the light back into the camera. Cherri deftly plays with the boundaries between private and public and questions the Enlightenment notion underpinning many museums, that to see is inevitably to know.

Michael Krebber, Cartouche paintings , 2017. Courtesy: Chantal Croussel, Paris

Michael Krebber
Chantal Crousel
20 May – 8 July 2017

Ten years on from his first solo show with Chantal Crousel, conceptual painter Michael Krebber is back at the gallery with a selection of new and recent works. Krebber’s work operates from the belief that, following such a long history, there is very little new that painting can now do. At the same time, the New York-based artist still works with paint, affirming that the medium has a future even if it is not one of novelty or progress.

Krebber produces works that involve a minimum of traditional brushstrokes. One series of works consisted of differently toned geometrical diamonds painted over shop-bought floral fabric. Another involved covering the canvas with pages from newspapers and magazines. Other works are more recognisable: recent years have seen Krebber working with acrylic, lacquer, charcoal and emulsion to create strikingly engaging compositions out of just two or three gestures; a vertical stripe of peach or a corkscrew of vibrant blue.

Paris Gallery Weekend, ‘Choices’, runs 20–21 May. For more shows in the city visit On View.

Tom Jeffreys is a writer based in Edinburgh. He is the author of two books: The White Birch: A Russian Reflection (Little, Brown, 2021) and Signal Failure: London to Birmingham, HS2 on foot (Influx Press, 2017).