Mara Hoberman

  • picks December 12, 2013

    “Decorum: Tapis et tapisseries d’artistes”

    The largest-ever textiles exhibition at Paris’s Musée d’Art Moderne brings together over one hundred woven works in the form of wall hangings, floor coverings, and freestanding sculptures from the Middle Ages to the present day. Rife with surprising anachronistic comparisons, the exhibition’s thematically organized sections point to the recent resurgence of weaving among contemporary artists while underscoring the historic importance of tapestry.

    In the section titled “The Painterly,” two tapestries designed by Pablo Picasso are hung in the company of a sixteenth-century Flemish tapestry. Picasso

  • picks December 03, 2013

    Lee Bul

    Korean artist Lee Bul’s first major European museum exhibition begins in the air. Cast in white polyurethane and suspended across Mudam’s I. M. Pei–designed glass and concrete atrium, two squads of sci-fi species appear frozen in the midst of a celestial ballet or battle. Perhaps a little worse for the wear (variably missing arms, legs, and heads), the hard-bodied, humanoid “Cyborgs,” 1997–2011, face off against the amorphous tentacled “Anagrams,” 1999–2006. Alternately evoking classical Greek marbles and “Star Wars” creatures, these ghostly human-scale beings appear to have arisen from Lee’s

  • Farah Atassi

    Those familiar with Farah Atassi’s work will recognize in her latest group of paintings the strong orthogonal lines that lend themselves well to her signature tiled and bricked interiors. Adhering to an underlying grid, Atassi meticulously uses tape and layers of oil paint to construct eerily unpopulated human-scale spaces. But whereas earlier paintings featured scant domestic objects—for instance, a cluster of chairs or a dangling light fixture—evoking a kitchen or a bathroom setting, recent works show the artist moving toward greater abstraction. Now exploring the grid as a modernist

  • Rolf Julius

    “Landscape” initially seemed a metaphorical or even ironic title for an exhibition of Rolf Julius (1939–2011), who is often pigeonholed as a sound artist and lumped with contemporaries such as John Cage, David Tudor, and Takehisa Kosugi. Employing the term literally, however, the show at Cortex Athletico (whose Bordeaux, France, gallery notably holds part of the late artist’s archives) aimed to rescue his oeuvre from this too narrow frame of reference. Here, rather than focusing on a simplistic cause-and-effect relationship between sound and image, Julius’s works on paper and multimedia sculptures

  • picks October 06, 2013

    Pier Paolo Calzolari

    Nearly two decades after his last solo show in Paris, Pier Paolo Calzolari is making a long-overdue reappearance. The reclusive poveristi’s current exhibition spreads across Kamel Mennour’s two spacious showrooms (christening the gallery’s new location, just a few blocks from the flagship) with a stunning forty-five-year survey.

    At the Saint-André des Arts space, key works from the 1960s and ’70s introduce Calzolari’s essential materials—metals, eggs, leaves, salt, moss, and frost (which he creates using refrigeration units). Senza titolo (Lasciare il posto) (Untitled [Leaving the Place]), 1972,

  • interviews September 20, 2013

    Matt Mullican

    Matt Mullican’s “Collecting for the studio – collecting 1959–2013,” at Galerie Nelson-Freeman in Paris, brings his early and recent works together with items from his personal collection of art and objects. Ranging from prehistoric tools to twentieth-century machinery and from Piranesi etchings to 1950s comic books, Mullican’s collection has never before been presented within the context of an exhibition. Here the artist highlights a few favorite objects and discusses the relationship of the collection and his work. The show is on view until November 9, 2013.

    I’VE DISCUSSED THE IDEA of showing

  • diary September 04, 2013

    Back to the Future

    OFTEN REFERRED to as the fair before la rentrée (France’s official “back to work” date), Art-O-Rama provides a perfect excuse to spend the last weekend of August in sunny Marseille. This year, in addition to being well situated to attract the art crowd returning from fabulous vacation destinations in Provence and the Côte d’Azur, Art-O-Rama benefitted from Marseille’s status as 2013’s European Capital of Culture. The city has enjoyed a fast and furious urban renewal, boasting brand new museums and public monuments, an impressive program of concerts and performances, and pop-up art projects

  • Daniel Firman

    The title of Daniel Firman’s first large museum show, “La Matière Grise” (Gray Matter), was both a reference and a provocation. The artist has used the phrase before, notably in a life-size self-portrait sculpture from 2009 titled Grey Matters, (not in the show), which illustrates the proverbial weight of the world by replacing the artist’s head with a cyclonic jumble of gray industrial and domestic objects. Expanding the title to encompass six years of work, the Lyon survey showed Firman using physical gray matter (namely clay, metal, resin, and painted plaster) to evoke more abstract outputs

  • picks August 13, 2013

    Joana Vasconcelos

    Using unexpectedly quotidian materials—from plastic cutlery to tampons—Joana Vasconcelos creates grandiose sculptures that critique and invigorate their environments. Following her redecoration of the Château de Versailles in 2012, the Paris-born, Lisbon-based artist’s current exhibition takes over a similarly ostentatious setting—the nineteenth-century Ajuda National Palace in Lisbon—with thirty-eight sculptures made over the past twelve years.

    Riffing on the decor and function of the palace’s Sala de Mármore—designed as a Victorian-style winter garden with alabaster walls and floors—Vasconcelos

  • picks August 07, 2013

    Pierre Ardouvin

    In the mid-1990s, French anthropologist Marc Augé coined the term nonlieu (nonplace) to refer to nondescript settings like supermarkets and airport terminals wherein one experiences an eerie combination of déjà vu and alienation. Evoking a similarly odd mix of familiarity and foreignness, Pierre Ardouvin’s oeuvre could be described as a series of nonlieux. But whereas Augé’s nonplaces are real-world banalities, Ardouvin’s paintings, drawings, sculptures, and installations are Lewis Carroll–esque limbos that mingle reality, collective memory, and pure fantasy.

    Ardouvin opens this exhibition in

  • picks July 08, 2013

    “Kiki, Seton, and Tony Smith”

    Honoring the centennial of Tony Smith’s birth in 1912, a retrospective juxtaposing his work with that of his two daughters—contemporary artists Kiki Smith and Seton Smith—has been touring Europe. After two stops in Germany (Kunsthalle Bielefeld and Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, Vaduz), this family affair is now on view at Toulouse’s Les Abattoirs, a former slaughterhouse whose soaring ceilings and brick arcades provide a dramatic setting for Smith senior’s monumental sculpture.

    In addition to celebrating Smith’s mature Minimalist style—epitomized here by Cigarette, 1961, a fifteen-foot-tall polygonal

  • Julia Rometti and Victor Costales

    Julia Rometti and Victor Costales’s exhibition “El Perspectivista” was born of a sociological and philosophical exploration of what the Brazilian anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro calls “Amerindian Perspectivism,” a naturalist worldview wherein animals, plants, spirits, and humans are understood to apprehend the same reality from different points of view. The resulting body of work includes black-and-white photographs, projected slide comparisons, zine-like photocopied pamphlets, volcanic rocks, and concrete tiles. Emphasizing the quasi-scientific nature of their practice, Rometti and

  • interviews May 13, 2013

    Nancy Rubins

    Just steps from the Seine, a tangled mass of aluminum rowboats, kayaks, and canoes arches across a typically busy courtyard on l’Université Paris Diderot’s campus. Echoing the steely gray Parisian skies under which it was unveiled this spring, Nancy Rubins’s largest public project in France is also her first permanent commission for the capital. While directing the crane-maneuvered installation, Rubins spoke about how Monochrome for Paris, 2013, came to be.

    ALMOST FOUR YEARS AGO, I was approached by the city of Paris through curators tasked with commissioning public sculptures to honor the city’s

  • picks April 15, 2013

    Jockum Nördstrom

    Son of an art professor, graduate of the Konstfack (Sweden’s largest art school), and married to painter Karin Mamma Andersson, Jockum Nördstrom is no outsider artist. However, because of his naive-style drawings and collages, he’s often compared to the likes of Henry Darger and Vojislav Jakic. It is fitting, then, that his first museum survey in France is at the LaM, home to the country’s largest public collection of art brut. Spanning eighteen years, this comprehensive exhibition brings together over eighty drawings, collages, and sculptures.

    Like Darger’s scrolls, Nördstrom’s works on paper

  • Merlin James

    Spanning more than fifteen years, the twenty-one works collected in Merlin James’s exhibition “Painting” epitomize his signature blend of dizzyingly diverse subjects, styles, and techniques. From a faux-naive still life with bird rendered in thick earth tones, Male Bird (Pecking), 2008–11, to a minimalist study in turquoise just barely suggesting architecture (Building, 2008); from Untitled, 2009, a gritty close-up of a sex act, to Burn and Grotto, ca. 2000–2009, an abstract diptych that has been burned, punctured, and collaged, James—an art critic as well as a painter—is consistent

  • picks March 14, 2013

    Julio Le Parc

    For the past half century, Julio Le Parc has created disorienting and elating sensorial experiences by manipulating light and reflection with kinetic constructions. The entry to the artist’s largest-ever survey in France is via a dense forest of suspended full-length mirrors. Navigating through Passage-cellule agrandie du labyrinth de 1963 (Cell-Passage Enlargement of the 1963 Maze), 1963–2013, the viewer is besieged by his own undulating, infinitely reflected image—and thereby initiated into a dual role as spectator and active participant.

    Never straying far from a basic recipe of mirrors,

  • Amélie Bertrand

    Featuring a limited palette of matte oil paints, whose saturated hues channel something of the bright, flat light of David Hockney’s Los Angeles poolscapes, Amélie Bertrand’s surrealist environments are as enticing as they are disconcerting. An odd assortment of cartoonish motifs including blank tombstones, redbrick walls, velvety sandpits, white lattice fencing, Astro turf mounds, and crenellated ramparts characterize an unpopulated terrain that is distinctly artificial, yet appealingly familiar. But alluring though they may be, these pictures are not portals. Bertrand keeps the viewer at

  • picks February 14, 2013

    “Une brève histoire des lignes”

    Writing in 1926, Wassily Kandinsky defined “line” as a force that “hurls itself upon the point which is digging its way into the surface, tears it out and pushes it about the surface in one direction or another.” This energetic description, along with illustrations from the didactic illustrated book in which it first appeared, Punkt und Linie zu Fläche (Point and Line to Plane), ushers us into the Centre Pompidou Metz’s sweeping investigation of the form and function of line in modern and contemporary art.

    Culled from the Pompidou’s permanent collection, the Metz survey boasts an impressive roster

  • Elsa Sahal

    Over the past decade, French ceramicist Elsa Sahal has conceived a universe where ostensible contradictions—abstraction versus figuration, male versus female, adorable versus abject—are reconciled into a variety of unsettling biomorphic forms. In her most recent exhibition, Sahal expanded her repertoire of tubular phalluses and thick-lipped orifices dribbled with syrupy glazes, creating two new breeds of large-scale androgynous figures. Explicitly corporeal, if not always blatantly figural, the sculptures are perhaps best described as bodies of clay—insistently of and about their

  • picks December 21, 2012

    “Seuls quelques fragments de nous toucheront quelques fragments d’autrui”

    Befitting the author of the show’s title—a poem by Marilyn Monroe (who knew?!)—this survey of contemporary collage is stylish and star-studded. And like Monroe, who struggled to be taken seriously in spite of her sex appeal, this exhibition’s intelligent curatorial conceit is nearly outshone by its own dazzling design.

    Aspects of the installation, which commingles work by thirty-six artists made across a wide range of media over the past two decades, are downright deco. John Armleder’s red jellyfish mural (Semaeostomeae VII, 2005) suggests patterned wallpaper opposite Walead Beshty’s gleaming “