Lionel Esteve presents present two large landscapes on glass, then six paintings in a new and unique medium. Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones. The first solo exhibition of Mel Ziegler presenting a selection of new and recent works.
Mel Ziegler Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones
Galerie Perrotin, Paris is pleased to present “Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones,” the first solo exhibition of Mel Ziegler in France, pre- senting a selection of new and recent works by the American artist. The show will also include works from his influential collaboration with Kate Ericson, beginning in the late 70s and continuing until Ericson’s premature death in 1995.
Synthesizing conceptual, Land art, and interventionist strategies, Ericson and Ziegler developed a distinctly American community-based art outside the orbit of New York. Working directly with local iconography, sites, and communities across America, the pair staged interventions with and for these communities, and produced works, largely sculptural, from these interventions. Throughout their collaboration, the couples’ work was exhibited by numerous galleries and museums, and was the subject of the traveling retrospective "America Starts Here" in 2005 (organized by Bill Arning and Ian Berry), as well as a comprehensive exhibition at Galerie Perrotin New York in 2014. In 1992, Emmanuel Perrotin dedicated a solo show to the artists in his first gallery, from which two pieces, “Vinegar of the 48 Weeds” and “Rock Jar” (1992), are presently on view.
Following the passing of Kate Ericson, Mel Ziegler has continued an artistic practice founded on the central concerns and strategies he and his partner established in their collaboration, but which has, over time, loosened formally and methodologically, allowing for a new degree of humor, serendipity, and a certain craftiness to enter his work. In the first room of the gallery, both the roots of his practice with Ericson as well as a more relaxed sensibility are evident with “Rock Hard Individualism” (2010). At first glance the work appears as a map of the United States composed of a variety of found stones. A second look reveals that each stone might be seen as a face. Ziegler, who has a thing for collecting these rock faces as he finds them, offers up a little bit of playful irony in his maturity: individually, each stone might not read as face to anyone except Ziegler, but organized together, we can no longer help but see each rock as having a countenance of its own.
On a nearby wall is an arrangement of some two-dozen brightly colored toy guns handmade by the children of the artist. Production was undertaken out of necessity—the artist was unwilling to purchase toy guns for his children on moral grounds—and so, fashioning the toys out of cardboard, duct tape, foil and paper with reference images from the internet, Ziegler’s children made their own. Like “Rock Hard Individualism”, this untitled work plays both with and against much of Ericson & Ziegler's earlier iconic participatory work, wryly replacing the distinct local communities who engaged in projects like "Give and Take" (1986), “Loaded Text”(1988), or “Camouflaged History”(1991), with the community of his own nuclear family.
The family and its relationship to community, nation and politics—though again with an injection of levity—is a theme which carries through into “Carry a Big Stick” (2015), a title which makes partial reference to President Teddy Roosevelt’s foreign policy of “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick.” Antique ammunition boxes, each lined with red velvet, have been filled with “fetch sticks.” “Fetch sticks,” as Ziegler calls them, are the sticks which he has collected and used over the last five years to play fetch with his dog. This American pit-bull named Sister, with whom Ziegler sometimes plays in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, is a sweet, affectionate animal, and no more inherently vicious than the sticks in the disarmed, luxuriously-lined ammo boxes on display in the present exhibition.
The exhibition also features two new iterations of “Stuffed” (2003), a site- specific project installed throughout Vienna for Ziegler’s solo show at the Wiener Secession. “Stuffed” arose in part out of the observation that mu- seum showcases, especially in a city like Vienna, form an integral part of the grammar of presentation for not just the Arts, but also for the display of salable luxury goods in the city’s famous shopping district. Taking about fifty museum vitrines, Ziegler relocated them around the city and stuffed them full of plain straw, drawing a viewer away from the object behind the glass, and redirecting him to attend the case itself and its role in creating an “aura of display.” A viewer is further encouraged, by this inversion of display and what is displayed, to consider the relationship between luxury goods and art objects, public presentation and private consumption, as well as the social, commercial, and institutional frames and behaviors that contribute to estab- lishing these distinctions.
Lionel Esteve: a wander
The day we met, Lionel Estève was setting up a “Retrospective” in Brussels of his own invitation cards. In his case, we could say that an exhibition starts with the invitation card: the name, the dates, the place and then a title: “a wander.” There is also an image on the back, and the artist adopts a unique position: it is not about a work, a detail, but a photograph that he has taken and that he uses to poetically introduce the exhibition. Here, a bit of landscape, a tree, a hillside descending to the banks of a river and its reflection in the water. It is bucolic, and yet quickly we discover that the reflection doesn't match the image and that, mysteriously, it shows even more than reality; it is an image spontaneously taken by the artist during one of his walks around the Imperial Park of Tokyo. This is the grand theme of the solitary wanderer, of his contact with Nature, which we can say is omnipresent in the work of Lionel Estève; I see here a common thread in his singular and unique body of work.
Galerie Perrotin, Paris will first present two large landscapes on glass, then six paintings in a new and unique medium: the artist collected various types of plants, dried and pressed, bleached with ink and painted with watercolors following their organic structures. In dried and gilded poppies, one cannot miss the bell shape so present in his work. In another room, a frieze of dried and stiffened plants, also gilded with gold leaf, at the base of the walls. Above the frieze: several large-format watercolors, clouds "in wild colors," like a broad menacing sky. In the last room: a herbarium of dried and gilded plants, some very large, arranged on the wall, a little like Matisse and his cut-outs: "but I believe this will be impressive, like a jungle or a blazing summer." (2) This is his first exhibition where the vegetal world is so present in the work. It is an occasion to demonstrate how, with each exhibition, the artist renews his body of work. Is this the same Lionel Estève whose exhibition we saw on rue de Turenne in 2005, and three years ago in Impasse Saint Claude? This is an artist who constantly experiments in his studio, and today the subject is gigantic dried leaves and the technique of gold-leafing. Rather than lecturing on the appearance of gold in the chromatic and mate- rial universe of the artist, we simply recall that when the solution on which the gold leaf is applied is ready, it is described as “amoureuse” (in love). In all of these techniques there is a souvenir of craftsmanship, of handiwork, of moments spent with children. From these simple gestures, Lionel Estève succeeds in producing singular works. Often, at first, it is as if there is a play, a reinterpretation of the gesture: a felt-tip pen is used to “mark,” watercolor is dropped in a puddle of water, the color is dissipated... the works are of the lightest sort. Paul Klee insisted on “only saying things once, and the simplest way possible.”
Image: MEL ZIEGLER "Rock Hard Individualism " 2010
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Opening: Saturday 18 April, 4-9pm
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