Bruno Botella, Oborot, 2012, silicone, hair, 18 7/8 x 11 3/4 x 11 3/4"

Bruno Botella, Oborot, 2012, silicone, hair, 18 7/8 x 11 3/4 x 11 3/4"

Bruno Botella

Galerie Samy Abraham

Bruno Botella, Oborot, 2012, silicone, hair, 18 7/8 x 11 3/4 x 11 3/4"

When visiting the exhibition “Oborot,” one is quickly struck by the coherence of the ensemble composed by eight works, all executed this past summer in the gallery itself. Black, white, and gray provide the dominant color scheme and produce a first distancing. The forms and their presentation devices are intriguing, even while seeming familiar; the titles add to the perplexity, whether they sound poetic—for instance Maillon de repli (Pearled Maillon) (all works 2012)—or just strange, like Qotrob or Oborot. If those two works are linked by their sound—and seem to echo the artist’s last name—they are not of the same origin: The former comes from Arabic, while the latter is an old Russian word for “werewolf.” Other titles cite proper names that may not be familiar—G. Dedlow? The object and its title offer separate entrances into Bruno Botella’s artistic universe: Oborot seems at first to be a banal hairpiece—albeit for someone wishing to be disguised at some point as a wolverine—but was cast in silicone directly on the artist’s head, obliging him to cut his hair to take it off, then turned inside out like a glove in order to have the salt-and-pepper hair back on the outside. It is therefore just as much a scalp as an evocation of a fantastic creature that could be thought to have wolf-hide on the other side of its human skin.

In Botella’s work, metamorphosis asserts itself as fundamental in, for instance, the transformation of painting into sculpture by rolling a sheet of round silicone into a cone, then filling it with paste and cutting it into slices that look like marble but also evoke MRI brain maps or, more trivially in 3487 (G. Dedlow), slices of sausage. Other changes happen via simple gestures of scraping and engraving and through the documentary and transformative power of photography: Riot-police shields become warping filters (L’Intérieur) through heating and marking the plastic. There’s also the reordering of letters in a name: Maillon de repli is an anagram of Doliprane Mille, a brand name for paracetamol, suggesting the transformation of headache pills into archaeological curiosities. These are metamorphoses of self as much as material, at least in the experiment that gave rise to Oog onder de put (Eye Under the Well). This is a plaster imprint of a mold made by the artist from a paste combining green clay and a psychotropic substance, the latter penetrating his skin and taking effect as he worked. It was the material itself that therefore produced the visions that his hands pursued, thus stimulating reflection both on sculpture and on the access to and possible transmission of altered states of consciousness.

It’s not surprising that Botella likes to cite Henri Michaux and Georges Bataille even as he confronts issues of work, medicine, the commodity, and power. Despite what may seem like a solidly documented discourse, Botella makes one wonder how much is really true. It’s as if he wants to be working to establish a hedged relationship to the reality on which he imposes “twisted blows, machinations” in order to better transform it through processes that, above all, he likes to see “overflow.”

Guitemie Maldonado

Translated from French by Molly Stevens.