Peter Shire

2 rue Borda
January 15–February 27

Peter Shire, Parallel Parallel, 2006, ceramic, stainless Steel
34 x 17 x 13".

Peter Shire’s current show is the result of long-distance conversations between French curator Julie Boukobza and the Los Angeles–born and –based artist. Via email and Skype, together they selected drawings and small three-dimensional works in metal, ceramics, and wood from the 1980s through 2015. The resulting miniretrospective celebrates Shire’s multifaceted oeuvre with a mix of functional design objects and decorative objets d’art.

Nearly forty three-dimensional works are informally arranged on a large, custom-built table that leaves the viewer just barely enough space to navigate the gallery’s main room. Stacks and pyramids of Shire’s signature Echo Park Pottery mugs are interspersed among colorful wooden maquettes of public sculpture projects, a model based on his “Bel Air” chair originally produced in the 1980s by Italian design group Memphis Milano (Bonne Aire [Good Area], 2006), and old and recent ceramic and metal sculptures. Epitomizing the installation’s nonchalant, nonhierarchical vibe, an unframed sketch of a chair (Seggiolino Study No. 2, 2006) is casually propped against a sidelong mug.

The oldest work on view, Laminati, 1987, is a multicolor laminated-wood end table measuring just over two feet tall. In the company of similarly sized and similarly geometric sculptures such as Parallel Parallel, 2006, Shire’s furniture appears less obviously functional. The inverse is also true: His abstract steel and ceramic sculptures seen here resemble chairs or teapots. Among Shire’s most recent works, Odyssey La-Tati, 2015, provides a special treat for cineastes. This orange-and-black-glazed ceramic amphora is decorated with scenes from Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle (1958), including Monsieur Hulot’s charmingly ramshackle town house and Tati’s lampoon of Le Corbusierian suburban architecture, Villa Arpel. Like Tati, Shire has a knack for making modernism fun (and funny). His own architectures, represented here by tabletop models of large-scale sculptures resembling carnivalesque construction cranes (Skyhook.01 and Skyhook.02, both 1987) and wacky design proposals for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (on view in the gallery’s grotto-like basement), are whimsical and geometric.

Mara Hoberman

Jorge Ribalta

Place des Nations
December 5–February 14

View of “Jorge Ribalta,” 2016

A sequence of 166 framed black-and-white photographs, presented as eight clustered grids over two adjacent rooms, is the outcome of artist Jorge Ribalta's recent travels throughout the French Borinage, a former coal-mining region all too slowly recovering from depression via a postindustrial service economy. On display in these scenes are subtle traces of a more illustrious past as well as straightforward shots of former mining sites converted by the government into monuments. Thus, Ribalta's images track the region's unfolding capitalism, which he speaks of as a “material enigma” with a “long duration,” spanning from the reign of Emperor Charles V to the recent opening of the Louvre-Lens.

Advertising campaigns promise a local renaissance via high-speed Internet connections and airport hubs providing swift access to the designs created by so-called starchitects. “Renaissance” ponders that imagined future, projected by local politicians and policy makers, in which the economy successfully balances out labor and leisure. From the show's poetic narration, viewers grow gradually more aware that progress may take more than the costly conversion of heavy industrial heritage into “tourist-oriented machinery” of “patrimonization,” as Ribalta calls it.

Ribalta inserts close-up portraits of the local inhabitants between images of these sites. Such portraits' subjects are key to making clear that pictures of decent housing, solid education facilities, corner shops, and welcoming taverns are painfully absent from the work. That artistic choice, underlined by a strategic lack of colors, leaves one wondering about the actual future of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais. Will it be enveloped in the divided opinions suggested by Ribalta's astutely observing photographs? Or will the Borinage ultimately find ways to transcend the mere festivization of its long cultural traditions, reinventing itself as a place where the cheerfulness of common everyday life can return?

Hilde Van Gelder