Laurent Pariente

Galerie Cent8

The artist Laurent Pariente’s forays into the field of architecture have been so convincing that he was recently commissioned to design an industrial building on the outskirts of Boulogne-sur-Mer. Yet neither his training nor his early artistic leanings would seem to have destined him to carry out such an architectural project.

Beginning his career primarily as a painter, a desire to create in three dimensions led him to erect (in a gallery space in Bordeaux in 1990) an L-shaped wall covered in red clay. By registering effects of light, material, and color traditionally reserved for painting, the thick, humid clay transformed the wall into a large monochrome. The next year, at the Biennale de Lyon, he installed four interconnecting walls in the two rooms at his disposal. As the number of walls in his art progressively multiplied, Pariente’s works have become veritable labyrinths, opening themselves up invitingly to the spectator.

A 1993 installation for an exhibition in Calais was distinctly labyrinthine: An intricate configuration of walls—without openings and covered with soap—had to be circumnavigated by the viewer. In contrast, the work presented at Galerie Cent8 undermined its own mazelike structure. Here multiple openings in the plasterboard walls allowed a free flow of air and gave the spectator numerous possibilities for movement through the space. The walls were no longer envisioned as insuperable barriers but as obstacles easily overcome. The clay or soap that once covered the surface of Pariente’s walls was replaced by luminous white chalk, which at once solicited and discouraged physical contact. The viewer, afraid of brushing up against and being marked by the powdery dividers, was forced to make his way slowly and deliberately through an unfamilar structure whose course he could not anticipate. The work was made to fit snugly in the gallery space, preventing any comprehensive view of the whole. Pariente points out that his works are not created for or according to a given space, but are “deployed” there and inhabit it. In this work, such a strategy of “deployment” was evidenced in the way the artist arranged the perpendicular walls diagonal to the partitions of the gallery, leaving a narrow border of residual space on the perimeter of the installation.

Pariente’s works bear comparison to Dan Graham’s pavilions. In order to fully experience either artist’s manipulation of space, the viewer must penetrate the work However, if Graham’s structures lead to an awareness of the space as a social space, Pariente’s works create a void. In this exhibition, the space, at once filled and emptied by the work, doesn’t lend itself to the Minimalist logic of immediate apprehension of the whole. Instead, space in Pariente’s structure is gently laid bare with each step, in successive fragments.

—Valérie Breuvart

Translated from French by Jeanine Herman.