Critics’ Picks

Lauren Coullard, Hang Back, 2019, oil on canvas, 77 x 45 1/4".

Lauren Coullard, Hang Back, 2019, oil on canvas, 77 x 45 1/4".


Lauren Coullard

Lily Robert
18 Rue de l'Hôtel de Ville
September 15–October 30, 2019

“My work is not in the new, but in reworking history,” Lauren Coullard recently told me at her studio at DOC, the artist residency she cofounded in an abandoned high school building in Paris’s nineteenth arrondissement last year. She also spoke about her painting practice as dealing with “something between the sacred and the profane,” and referenced Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto,” describing an interest in “hybridity between man and woman, animal and artifice.”

For this solo exhibition in Paris, Coullard borrowed the title and premise of Isaac Asimov’s 1941 science- fiction novella Nightfall. Referencing Asimov’s story of imminent darkness on a planet illuminated by six suns, she has marked a single black, indelible strike on five of the six square windows of the gallery’s upstairs office. Only six months ago, Notre Dame Cathedral burst into flames, releasing a black cloud of leaden smoke that engulfed this historic quarter.

Coullard’s pale Carpet Sweeper, 2018, and her velvety, dark- purple Hang Back, 2019, two of the ten works in oil on canvas or wood here, hang side by side like adjacent pages of an illustrated fairy tale. Their seemingly anachronistic subjects—a winged dragon in the first and a knight on horseback in the latter—make perfect sense in the simultaneously triumphant and collapsing architectural geography of central Paris. On the evening of the opening, Coullard placed an elaborate pastry atop her Vaisseau Pousse (Spaceship Shoots), 2019. Echoing Asimov’s apocalyptic math, the pastry’s five tiny meringue puffs playfully complimented the ornamented android figure composed against the painting’s pale- pink background. Meanwhile, her icon-like Crystal Weeper, 2019, which curator Fabio Santocroce has hung just below the gallery’s plastic electrical box, suggests the blue of Mary’s mantele. The cloaked figure’s eyes are hooded in mourning. Levelling science fiction with religion, Coullard aims her precise brushstrokes at an approaching twilight.