In Fabrice Hybert's most recent installation 'Mex-Mixt' (the inaugural show for Anne de Villepoix's large new space), a tree trunk appeared to be hugging the interior of the gallery. Its intertwining limbs and roots formed a tangle of offshoots, a fitting metaphor for the sense of profusion and energy that characterize Hybert's approach to making art. The installation also included a couple of paintings, some bonsai trees and the artist's first porn film.
Your eye moved around the space, taking in the rhythmic chaos of scribbled images and words. A huge, multicoloured work, Peinture Homeopathique N° 18 (Homeopathic painting No. 18, 2000), comprises several hundred organic-shaped ceramic tiles which Hybert painted in Guadalajara, Mexico. The title 'Mex-Mixt' refers not only to where the work for this show was made, but to the work's amalgam of materials and ideas.
The sheer scale of the work is clearly intended to echo its intellectual scope. 'Mex-Mixt' includes diagrams, scientific formulae, calculations and words, and images of drops of liquid, bubbles, arrows, chickens, monsters, skeletons and teeth. The glazes are a mixture of olive greens that suggest the Italian tradition of working in clay, mixed with grey half-tones of smudged charcoal, expanses of ochre, sepia tones, pale pinks, and muted beiges that casually slide one into another.
This sensual work outlines Hybert's familiar preoccupations - from chemical reaction formulas and cellular biology to ecology (solar energy or vegetation), weather, geological formations, the evaporation of the sea and condensation). Ultimately, it represents the artist's insatiable imagination and the ways in which thought processes develop, the way unconscious forms endlessly inspire random associations and then branch out into others - what he refers to as 'the enormous reservoir of the possible'. Hybert is best known for some of his more conceptual works: a hair salon in the Centre Pompidou, a supermarket in Paris‚ and a TV studio for the Venice Biennial, which not only recorded scheduled programs but included the gaps between them. He also gained attention for his wry, rather surreal so-called POFs ('Prototypes d'objets en fonctionnement' - prototypes of working objects), clever manipulations of banal objects: one of his best-known and most amusing is Swing (POF No 3, 1990), a rather pornographic version of a playground swing complete with two phallic protuberances, one hard, one soft, swelling from its seat. Like this new installation, these works reflect Hybert's ability to work in different media, and the way meanings shift and mutate.
Hybert is often called France's most Warholian artist; he has even created his own company, UR, to produce and distribute his works, and his studio employs more than a dozen assistants. With his sense of showmanship and his savvy mastery of the art market, he has also been compared to Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons.
Perhaps the most telling piece of his 'Mix-Mext' was the porn video. Romping through the French vineyards and licking grape juice off each other, the stars were simply too pretty, lacking the grime and sweat needed to render the film realistically sexy.