View of “Fabrice Hyber,” 2014.

View of “Fabrice Hyber,” 2014.

Fabrice Hyber

View of “Fabrice Hyber,” 2014.

Fabrice Hyber’s recent exhibition was perversely titled “Interdit aux Enfants” (Children Not Allowed), though it was in fact designed specifically for children, or at least conceived with their small size and big imaginations in mind. Known for his quirky “Prototypes d’Objets en Fonctionnement” (Prototypes of Functioning Objects), 1991–, Hyber here complemented new POFs, mostly modified versions of earlier designs that have been scaled into child-friendly formats, with energetic diagrammatic paintings. Transforming the gallery into an informal classroom-cum-laboratory, with charts and annotations scrawled directly on the walls in charcoal and videos demonstrating how his artworks were made or are meant to be employed, Hyber, a trained scientist, underscored the at once didactic and user-friendly appeal of his experimental practice.

The show’s centerpiece was a low plywood platform padded with black rubber tiles (the sort typically found under a jungle gym) and laden with colorful and wacky props, costumes, games, and gadgets. The thirty-odd miniaturized POFs (all 2014) included a cubic soccer ball, originally made in 1998, that appeared here in diminutive pink and blue versions (POF 65 Ballon Carré rose; POF 65 Ballon Carré bleu), a pastel three-sided seesaw (POF 147 Triple balance); small pants with sewn-in chair legs that ostensibly permit the wearer to sit whenever and wherever he or she is so inclined (POF 16 Pantachaise); and toddler-size Lego statues (POF 125 Homme de Bessines) based on the green male figures that Hyber designed for a public fountain in the French town of Bessines in 1991 and that have populated his work in various incarnations ever since.

The walls surrounding the carnivalesque installation provided further insight into Hyber’s intellectual and material processes. A salon-style hanging of resin-coated oil paintings served as a sort of Hyber 101 crib sheet, highlighting key elements from the artist’s idiosyncratic visual vocabulary. Dubbed “Hieros,” the colorful pictograms (all 2014) included Glurp, a double body symbolizing reversibility; Orange, a citrus fruit raining juicy drips; and Cannibal, two Pac-Man shapes biting each other. Several paintings describe relationships between nature and the human body—the paramount theme for Hyber. Poils, for instance, can be read either as a landscape of tree trunks and patches of grass, or as fleshy limbs with outcroppings of coarse, dark hairs.

Meanwhile, a much larger and more complex ecosystem dominated the gallery’s back wall. Peinture Homéopathique n˚30 (inhumain-immortalité), 2013, is part of the ongoing series of “Homeopathic Paintings” Hyber has been producing at the average rate of one per year since 1986. The thirtieth such work combines sketches and maquettes for various POFs (including several exhibited in Hyber’s “mental spa” at Paris’s Palais de Tokyo in 2012–13), research documents, hand-drawn flow charts and DNA strands rendered in charcoal, and pieces of actual tree bark and full branches, the whole evoking a massive and chaotic bulletin board. Hyber here describes his own mental activity as an earthy landscape, using shades of green and brown to paint trees and various rhizomes connecting his ideas and objectives. Demystifying the artist’s creative process (collaged printouts show he uses Google, for instance) while simultaneously reveling in its great complexity, the painting reinforces the pedagogical context of even Hyber’s most playful creations.

Mara Hoberman