Gennevilliers/Nantes, Francee

Mark Geffriaud

École Municipale des Beaux-Arts/Zoo Galerie

Mark Geffriaud strives to obscure the clues of the individual artist’s signature by inviting friends, critics, designers, and other artists to collaborate on his work. For his recent double exhibition at the École Municipale des Beaux-Arts in Gennevilliers (“Et Mason”) and at the Zoo Galerie in Nantes (“Et Dixon”), he was joined by no fewer than ten people (and had invited a hundred). Artist and photographer Aurélien Mole shot portraits of Geffriaud’s collection of preparatory source images, extracted from books, magazines, and journals, which were then printed as panoramas along one wall in each show; artist Alex Cecchetti helped Geffriaud pull and twist epoxy clay into a long and slender form that leaned against a wall in Gennevilliers; and Geffriaud deconstructed a book by Raimundas Malasauskas and hung the reordered pages on the wall to suggest a new narrative. Among the source images photographed by Mole, one finds a composition by the Surrealist Paul Nougé titled Les Spectateurs (La Naissance de l’objet) (The Spectators [The Birth of the Object]), 1929–30, which presents a group of people gathered in a corner staring expectantly at an empty wall. Particularly in the context of Geffriaud’s emphasis on the communal form, Nougé’s photograph (part of a series titled “La Subversion des images”) can be read as disrupting the codes of authorship that aim to glorify the artist with a capital A as solitary genius.

The exhibitions’ titles nod both to the English surveyor heroes Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon—who resolved a pre-Revolution dispute between British colonies by marking out their borders, which later separated the abolitionist North and the slaveholding South during the US Civil War—and to the adaptation of their story in Thomas Pynchon’s postmodern 1997 novel Mason & Dixon. Geffriaud’s reference to this constructed border, at once imaginary and real, echoes his own project of surveying the boundaries between what a work documents and what it comes to reveal, between author and collaborators, between authentic and artifice. Trompe l’oeil has been a related leitmotif in his work for a few years, as in the beautiful installation Polka Dot at the Palais de Tokyo in 2008, conceived as a magic lantern that distributed archival images of the first picture ever taken of the sun among posters, photographs, and book pages in a darkened room. In this recent pair of exhibitions, Mole’s painstakingly reproduced sections of the wall of archives in the artist’s studio were complete with hyperrealistic effects of pins, tape, and shadows among the documents. Meanwhile, in Gennevilliers, one had to actually try to touch the letters in an alphabet book (designed by Charles Mazé and Coline Sunier) hanging on the wall in order to realize that each black negative space (the center of the O, for instance) was in fact a hole opening onto a dark and inaccessible room. This “black box,” literally and figuratively, is emblematic of Geffriaud’s recent work. He never completely discloses the keys to an exhibition, and he insists that “coincidences are a way of watching what happens—and that is for the best.”

Claire Moulène

Translated from French by Molly Stevens.