“Les Feuilles”

Super/Palais de Tokyo

“Les Feuilles” (Sheets) took place at two sites. Works by Barbara Bloom, Robert Breer, Isabelle Cornaro, Aurélien Froment, Ryan Gander, Benoît Maire, Clément Rodzielski, and Raphaël Zarka were presented at Super, an artist-run space that opened last year, while works by these same artists plus Julien Crépieux, Mark Geffriaud, and Jiří Kolář were shown at Module 2 of the Palais de Tokyo. Curated by Élodie Royer and Yoann Gourmel, “Les Feuilles” mainly included artists in their late twenties and early thirties but, holding to a convergence of artistic approaches rather than claiming inheritance, it also included three artists from different generations: Bloom, Breer, and Kolář, the last a onetime Paris-based Czech artist born in 1914. Hung with precision, the exhibition’s unforced formal, conceptual, and poetic overlaps tested out what a group show can gain in the absence of a theme, tagline, or contrived scenography.

At the Palais de Tokyo, Breer’s nearly—but deliberately not— geometric paintings Untitled, 1950, and Untitled, 1953, have a glimmer of cartooniness that hints at his abstract animations to come, while Cornaro’s photographic suite Cinésculptures, 2008, has something of stop-motion magic to it: Seeking the threshold of visibility within a fixed frame, Cornaro photographed two sheets of paper, one folded horizontally and one vertically, on a black ground. With each subsequent photograph, a new parallel fold appears and an additional plane is created but, by the sixth image, planes start to vanish from sight, swallowed up by shadow and perspective. Kolář’s collage Déposition du témoin inconnu (Testimony of the Unknown Witness), 1984, features text that has been finely fragmented into illegibility but keeps just enough of it intact to show that it must have come from a single printed source. With its two jagged shapes cut out to frame mirrors, it looked remarkably current alongside Rodzielski’s shard-like, glueless collages made from successive pages of women’s magazines still in their binding (Untitled, 2008). At Super, Gander evoked different means of distribution with just three identical, blank A1 sheets of paper (The Mechanics of Form, 2002). The first curls slightly as if it had been protected in a tube and were something to be sold; the second has creases from being folded in eighths, a suitable form to hand out or mail; and the third has creases from being folded in fourths, and staple holes along the vertical fold, suggesting a poster that comes in a magazine. These surprisingly decipherable proportions were a foil to the closed copy of a French edition of De Divina Proportione in Zarka’s Préfiguration de la collection des rhombis (Prefiguration of the Rhombi Collection), 2008, which presents the famous Renaissance treatise on geometry and artistic proportions as a display base for two utilitarian screw-threaded metal rhombicuboctahedrons.

But what was unusual about “Les Feuilles” was how certain pieces conjured works from the other site. Looking at Gander’s folded sheets at Super, for example, one had to think of Cornaro’s folded sheets at the Palais de Tokyo. It is as if one were obliged to verify whether the record had skipped or if discontinuity was part of the score. That works could withstand being superposed onto seemingly similar pieces by other artists and come out as quite distinct stops you in your tracks. Shedding facile formal or anecdotal pairings, this exhibition’s carefully orchestrated false starts are the most palpable indication that its curators took their cue from Sergei Parajanov’s film Sayat Nova (1968) and Serge Daney’s 1982 article on it, in which he observes,“...[O]ne image does not follow another; rather it replaces it.”

Jian-Xing Too