Critics’ Picks

View of “Pierre Allain: Soap Opera,” 2023.

View of “Pierre Allain: Soap Opera,” 2023.


Pierre Allain

Galerie Roger Tator
36 rue d'Anvers
February 3–March 24, 2023

While Pierre Allain’s “Soap Opera” may draw conceptual inspiration from the corporate-sponsored origins of that titular genre, it is the numb and haunted tone of his work that more closely evokes the soap opera’s vacuum-like atmosphere, with characters like coiffed prisoners pacing claustrophobic rooms in states of perpetual frustration, yearning, and doom.

In an adjacent gallery space, three white obelisks stand along the walls of a tiny grey-carpeted room. The sculptures—all titled Skins Screen, 2023—are each coated in a stucco-like sprayable chemical called Apromud P150, a superabsorbent polymer used in a variety of hygienic and cleaning products. These vampiric, minimalist cuboids literally suck the moisture out of the room.

Beyond the sculptures comes the muffled sound of Tip of My Tongue, 2022. Composed of audio clips lifted from an online forum for people in search of the forgotten movies and TV shows that traumatized them as children, the piece broadcasts feeble attempts at crowd-sourcing closure via hazy descriptions of “a black screen and a knocking, as if someone were inside the TV,” or “a creepy rooster with a high-pitched voice cooking alphabet soup.” The surreal recollections, read in an icy mantra by Allain, play quietly from a salvaged hospital intercom.

In Self-Diagnosis 1-9, 2022-23, the artist translates flash photos of a stainless steel sink—taken in a nearby bar where he works part-time—into a series of small graphite drawings. The squeaky-clean subject matter is delicately unraveled by the meticulous activity of Allain’s pencil. We are left to contemplate what other repetitive, anxious frequencies might hum beneath white noise.