Critics’ Picks

Fabien Vilrus, Ornella, A Front de Mer Saint Paul, 2019, hand printed C-print, 31 1/2 x 39".

Fabien Vilrus, Ornella, A Front de Mer Saint Paul, 2019, hand printed C-print, 31 1/2 x 39".

Paris

“La Kaz”

Balice Hertling | 47 bis Rue Ramponeau
47 bis rue Ramponeau
June 26–August 1, 2020

“To live is not just to have a roof, it is to construct a space that welcomes, that doesn’t close, that doesn’t cleave,” writes Francoise Vergès in the exhibition text for “La Kaz,” whose title is Réunionese Creole for “home.” Here, curator Juan Corrales has gathered an imaginary neighborhood in the form of photographs taken by Fabien Vilrus and styled by Nicolas Guichard, both born on La Réunion. One wall is entirely portraits of houses in various states of rust and reclamation by the Earth. As such structures are replaced by profit-driven architecture that ignores both climate and community, it’s the latter that must provide a lived sense of home.

Lorrie In Her Bedroom (all works 2019) sits alone in a Pepto-Bismol abyss, her gaze fixed on her naked toes peeking out from stirrup lace tights and the shadows that surround her ruffled bed. In Snack Bar, two girls clasp hands and lock eyes as they prepare to arm wrestle. From an elbow ditch, a third figure appears to sprout, like Venus born of her shell. The intimate moment recalls Audre Lorde’s Eye to Eye (1984): “Here we are attempting to address each others’ eyes directly. Even if our words taste sharp as the edge of a lost woman’s voice, we are speaking.” And indeed, the gallery is filled with the voices of two girls, gossiping in Creole on the beach, as portrayed in the lilac VHS haze of Ladi Lafé.

“Home” for both artists is now Paris, France, the belly of the former colonizer, a country where tens of thousands have recently protested in the capital over the killing of Adama Traoré. Such violence is hinted at in Father and Son, which shows the raised arms and exposed ribcage of a little boy, jersey pulled overhead. The portrait reminds us that, in the words of Vergès, “a new sociality remains to be invented.” In this spirit of collaboration, garments of Guichard’s making are featured in, for example, Ornella, A Front de Mer Saint Paul, whose subject is framed by an open car door against the surreal twilight of the ocean’s horizon. We see Ornella again in Before the Dancehall Party, looking stunning in blue jeans that tie in the back, heading into the night to join a space that doesn’t close, that doesn’t cleave.