Critics’ Picks

View of Batia Suter’s “Radial Grammar,” 2018.


Batia Suter

Le Bal
6, Impasse de La Défense
May 25–August 26

“Ghost stories for adults.” That was Aby Warburg’s summation of his celebrated atmospheric atlas of found pictures, his “Mnemosyne,” 1924–29, and it’s a label I’ve always loved. But who doesn’t love Warburg? Batia Suter’s photographic work certainly feels like a tribute. For many years, the Amsterdam-based artist has similarly sourced images from diverse reserves—antiquarian bookstores to flea markets. She then constructs an intuitive edit from her vast troves, creating collections loosely based on her discoveries of themes and visual characteristics. Her meticulous bricolage often educes associations and narratives that run from the provocative to the obscure, and her latest solo show, “Radial Grammar,” is a prime example of that scope. The entirely black-and-white large-scale, site-specific installation, which shares its name with the exhibition, can feel like a mixed bag, but there are gems to be found.

For instance, the place where Suter’s grammar brilliantly speaks is on the lower level of this two-floor show. A video slideshow presents images for a few seconds each, just enough time to leave the viewer befuddled and intrigued. The work is nearly thirty-five minutes long and encompasses some one hundred and fifty pictures, but it feels like infinity. The stark images of microorganisms, antique objects, diagrams, and patterns collide and transform, and though all is silent, a rhythm emerges, a mysterious and mesmerizing tempo. The effect is otherworldly in the Warburgian sense, not something Pinterest searches can provide. It’s also reflective of the beauty and anarchy—post–World Cup victory—that have overtaken Paris this July.