Critics’ Picks

Émilie Pitoiset, Kaa, 2017, leather glove, clay, aluminium shelf, 19 x 9 x 7".


Émilie Pitoiset

Prinzessinnenstr. 29
March 11–April 22

Émilie Pitoiset’s exhibition hyperbolizes the truism that deciding what to keep out of art is as important as deciding what to put in. Here, absence becomes protagonist. To this end, the French artist has combined ready-made objects—namely a series of finely crafted and richly colored leather gloves—with diminutive sculptures to make mise-en-scènes. The seven gloves—with titles such as The BCBG and Kaa, both 2016–17—come to exceed their cool bourgeois pretensions, betraying a range of subtle personality traits.

Their posture produces this effect: The gloves clench fists, lie flat, grasp metal shelves, and hold trinkets aloft. Meanwhile, other works layer the scene with a tragicomic aura. In Debate, 2017, for example, a constellation of ceramic cigarette butts has been scattered across a vintage leather couch. There’s a distinct familiarity to Pitoiset’s method, as she combines authentic and impostor objects to make scenes that flicker between reality and fantasy. But there is also something to be said for giving well-worn tricks fresh life. And give life Pitoiset does, foregrounding the animating powers of costumes and props, while human absence haunts.

The sleight of hand continues when viewers are lured us into the gallery’s back room by glowing pink neon. Here, the space’s corners hold odd, interloping items. In The Spirit, 2014, a tumbler filled with resin-cast whiskey can be seen through an open cupboard door, while nearby is a photo of a cat that perches atop an electric utilities box. Discernible in this cheeky use of a gallery’s boring bits is a spirit of institutional critique à la Michael Asher. But as with the feminist exegesis suggested in the title of her exhibition, Pitoiset’s critical relationship to the white cube couples wit with a penchant for theatrical magic. Without such compound sentiments, it might be art itself that vanishes.