Claude Closky

Maison Levanneur

When Maison Levanneur, the Centre National de l’Estampe et de l’Art Imprimé, was transformed into an exhibition space for contemporary art, its new director, Sylvie Boulanger, set out to create a program dedicated to recent work that has something to do, at least in part, with printed art, thereby respecting the center’s original mission. Each exhibition is the occasion for the printing of a work or an edition by a contemporary artist.

For “Tatouages” (Tattoos), the recent exhibition by French artist Claude Closky, the walls of the space were covered with various wallpapers. Some of them—Sans titre (cosmétiques) and Sans titre (marabout), both 1997—were already well known, while others, Sans titre (tatouages) and Sans titre (supermarché) were conceived expressly for this show. In the wallpaper that gives the exhibition its title, black curved lines form ornate designs that seem to become endlessly entangled. The supermarché (supermarket) wallpaper, inspired by the visuals of grocery-store ad inserts, features rows of photographed products and their boldly marked prices. By proposing this zero-degree, supermarket aesthetic as a backdrop for our interiors, Closky undermines the semiotics of advertising. The repetition of images from cosmetic ads or promotional offers across a seemingly endless surface dilutes their visual impact and the desire that advertisements are meant to elicit, bringing these representations back to what they truly are (and what the advertisement hopes to mask): namely, signs of objects that are anything but exclusive.

Closky’s iteration of imagery lifted from fashion magazines and cosmetic ads cleverly banalizes their effects, but his work is not limited to this sphere. He has produced a vast assemblage of ballpoint-pen drawings, videos, books, and photographs, some of which were presented in this exhibition, that document both everyday and absurd events and actions. Whether cutting out all the words of a page of a book and arranging them in alphabetical order or making portraits that consist of inscribing on canvas every date of the sitter’s lifetime from his birth up to that point, his project evokes that of On Kawara, with whom Closky seems to share a certain predilection for the inventory of the anodyne behaviors of daily life. Asked about his possible relation to Minimalists and Conceptualists, Closky responds, “The artists that interest me most are those whose practices challenge the function of the work of art to the point of posing the question of its necessity. Today, it seems natural to me to question the necessity of such questioning; to show that in order to respond to these questions, it may be enough not to answer.” While Closky himself eludes all response, he does pose a question to whoever happens on the project he conceived in 1997 for the Dia Center for the Arts’ website: “Do you want love or lust?”—which, like his wallpaper, extends the vacuousness of the rhetoric of women’s magazines to infinity.

Valérie Breuvart

Translated from French by Jeanine Herman.