...brings together seven critically acclaimed international artists from Marseille, Paris, London, Los Angeles and Stockholm for an exhibition about the implications of these three short words.
Par Broman, Stockholm
Stuart Croft, London
Per Huttner, Stockholm
Valerie Mrejen, Paris
Stephanie Nava, Marseille
Charles Labelle, Los Angeles
Jemima Stehli, London
Curated by Per HÃ¼ttner
'I love you...' three small and inconspicuous words. '...all we need is a preacher and a motel...' brings together seven critically acclaimed international artists from Marseille, Paris, London, Los Angeles and Stockholm for an exhibition about the implications of these three short words.
We are bombarded with images of the ideal relationship, the perfect love, the happy family, undying sexual desire - in films, advertising, music and the press. All the work in this exhibition is coloured by these idealised images of love and are thus expressions of the appealing and the beautiful. But the subject matter of each of the works deals with the unbearable suffering inflicted when love is denied, or situations where sexual desire is used to suppress a greater emotional pain. It is in this tension between surface and content where the exhibition gains its momentum.
Jemima Stehli's large photographic self-portraits are a perfect example of this dichotomy. Appealing and mystically beautiful, they speak of abandonment. They portray the loss of love and the personal crises that naturally follows that denial - as we even degrade ourselves in a last, hopeless attempt to regain love.
Where Stehli approaches abandonment from a subjective standpoint, Charles LaBelle invites us to ponder the privacy of total strangers made public. He has produced three womens' dresses from the fabric of mattresses found in the street. What private joys and traumas took place on those mattresses before they were turned into three womens' dresses - ready to tempt and seduce?
Like LaBelle, Stephanie Nava's drawings are also concerned with objects. In her case, objects are literally the glue that holds lovers together - or sets them apart. The entity created by two people and an object is totally removed from an existing context and it is unclear if this cocooning is a curse or a blessing. These ambiguities in Nava's drawings show how love has become coloured by and intricately interwoven with consumer culture.
Stories about love and death make up the most archaic forms of narrative. ValÃ©rie MrÃ©jen, Stuart Croft and Per HÃ¼ttner all approach this tradition using different points of departure. MrÃ©jen has taken the narrative of seduction and turned it on its head. A woman describes how is she is seduced. She does this in the most bored fashion imaginable. The obvious comedy of the piece gains further strength by our knowledge of how the other party, the man, undoubtedly will boast about his 'conquest' to his friends. HÃ¼ttner also plays with romantic notions in his series of photographs. By placing a clearly contemporary Quasimodo in Beverly Hills he merges a romantic literary tradition with the irony and nihilism of Hollywood culture. The outcome is both sad and funny.
Stuart Croft's video merges the format of news media with that of lowbudget cinema. In a deadpan fashion, not unlike that of MrÃ©jen, he paints a sad portrait of a man crushed under the yoke of the responsibilities of fatherhood and sexual frustration. Love and desire are merged in a lethal cocktail that unravels the darkest corners of the human psyche.
Where Croft deals with death in a concrete way, PÃ¤r Broman uses the ancient metaphorical link between death and the orgasm. Broman has photographed three men's faces as they have an orgasm. The artist's interest lies in the lack of control that the models have over their facial expressions under these circumstances. His photographs, like the exhibition as a whole, is an attempt to turn the hyper-real, yet bogus 'realism' of fashion photography inside-out. By accommodating the ugliest, acknowledging the loss of control and embracing complexity each of the participating artists attempts to attain another form of 'truth' and represent another form of 'realism'. The work in the exhibition challenges mediated ideas about beauty and love and creates a surface on which we can mirror the darker sides of our souls.
Image: Per HÃ¼ttner, 'The Hunchback in Beverly Hills', 2000, c-print, 110 x 110 cm
Galerie Friche de la Belle de Mai / 41, rue Jobin 13 003 Marseille