Critics’ Picks

View of “Sans Filet,” 2012.


Julien Nédélec

Musée des Beaux-Arts Mulhouse
4 place Guillaume Tell
June 11 - September 16

The Biennale de Mulhouse—timed to coincide with nearby Art Basel—offers recent art school graduates an opportunity to exhibit their work and compete for a solo show at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Mulhouse. In his current exhibition, 2010 winner Julien Nédélec explores language and the legacy of Minimalism with the artist’s characteristic simplicity and wit.

Entitled “Sans Filet” (Without a Net), the show is Nédélec’s first in a fine arts museum rather than a contemporary art space, and the context inspired a reflection on different forms of display practice. Here, Nédélec, whose work often exploits principles of repetition and multiplicity, presents two series that place museography itself on view.

The first, La Chute d’une feuille au Brésil peut-elle déclencher une tornade au Texas? (Can a paper falling in Brazil cause a tornado in Texas?, all works cited, 2012), is a visual pun on the butterfly effect. Casting himself as a hunter, Nédélec filled forty-two entomological boxes with geometric cutouts, pinned down as if they were biological specimens. The work offers a humorous appraisal of entomological display practices which (as Nédélec says he discovered) give the illusion of a scientific classification scheme but in fact are determined by the whims of the collector. Echoing this process, Nédélec cut out over 8,000 forms from more than 160 kinds of paper to create his aleatory ensembles.

The second series, whose title, “Chimeras,” refers to composite creatures in Greek mythology, takes Nédélec’s reflection on display practice into three dimensions. Wooden geometric sculptures, painted in muted colors and recalling small-scale Minimalist works by Sol LeWitt or Tony Smith, are placed like precious jewels or taxidermied animals in hollow brass display cases. In substituting these hand-crafted emblems of modernism for natural history specimens, Nédélec offers a wry reflection on art history’s own systems of classification.