Photo by Antonio Meza
The questions regarding our environment dominate magazine covers, fill pages of newspapers, inspire political and personal debates, even find their way into literature and art. Yet the work of young French plasticienne Julie LeGrand goes far beyond a treatment of environmental issues, challenging notions of nature vs. manmade (or artificial) production, asking “which is menaced, which menacing?”.
In her series of tactile pieces entitled “Rose” (I, II, III), one might merely see hills of bright fibers that make the viewer want to plunge their fingers in, dive into the pile as they might surround themselves in the cushy warmth of a scarf, or brush their cheek up against them as they might a fern in a botanical garden. For Legrand, however, this series is part of an homage to a lost ancestor. As such, she is less concerned by the material that is amassed than by how it comes together and connects, how it makes a solid shape and yet, as in the image of Rose III pictured left/right displayed in the Château de Saint Ouen’s expo “Tendre”(2007), where we see parts of it dangling over the top of the stairwell, it is at once coming together and thinning out, disappearing, falling away from the ensemble. The solidity of the mass, at first mountainous, dwindles, as in nature mortality covers over, erases and replaces.
Conversely, an accumulation of threads becomes almost menacing in her humorous piece “Les liens coupés” displayed in winter 2007 at La Maison Rouge, Paris 12e http://www.lamaisonrouge.org/fr/index.php. Atop a bed, smashing it, a body of yarn-like material is a planet, green nature crushing the bed (a human structure) under its massive weight and size. The title again evokes humanity, and separation between humans. It throws the piece’s interpretations in many directions, eliciting at once the idea of a collection of links cut from others, a couple’s splitting up, an individual separated from the world, the world or planet personified as off brooding in its room (perhaps because we have so mistreated it), the way separation grows making it difficult to reconnect later, or simply the massive collection of things in life, necessary or not, that overtake us at times in funny, ludicrous ways, as a ball of string does in this case.
Other works by LeGrand evoke more directly nature taking over the space of a gallery, such as “retour aux sources” and “sans titre” which seem to be sending silicone root systems out over the space of the expo, or nature vanishing, such as “Tralalarme” a transparent series of pyrex and crystal glass drops pasted one by one onto the wall at the Galerie Anton Weller, Paris 6e, in 2006 for her exhibition “Faire et Defaire”. In “Tralalarme”, the droplets form a vine trickling up and down the wall, enclosing it as if in a natural substance but entirely manufactured (and unfortunately for viewers, as hard to photograph as it was stunning). LeGrand, originally a country girl, says that she came to Paris and now she often confronts ideas of nature interacting with architectural space, “such as mold overtaking a ceiling, or vines covering over a building”. This time, though, the transparent substance seemed more at risk of vanishing than invading; on the verge of evaporating unnoticed even as it overtakes the wall.
In her sculptural projects, LeGrand desires, as she has said “to explore the manufactured” but also to locate it in a way that “is beautiful and fascinating, which shines and draws your attention to it”. Her influences are as varied as American minimalism, Jerôme Bosch and Cy Twombly. She enjoys working in Paris, a major urban space, and seems to see herself now as an urban artist, fascinated by the found, what one discovers in the city. As such, LeGrand’s work recognizes interconnection between self and other, discovered thus uncovered potential. It is an extension of her main thematic explorations: nature and artificial, creation and exploration, color and the absence thereof, the fragility of both the natural and the created/fabricated object. Only now in her mid-thirties and with an increasingly inspiring body of work developing, she is a French artist to keep your eye on, and certainly to see when traveling here in France!
Julie Legrand’s work is currently being shown at Fondation Ecureuil, Toulouse. http://www.caisseepargne-art-contemporain.fr/
Galerie Anton Weller, Paris, represents LeGrand’s work:
http://www.antonweller.com/artistes/legrand/legrand_en.htm and where you may find a downloadable pdf of her “dossier artistique” which includes a collection of images of the works described above.
Jennifer K Dick is an author (of Fluorescence, Retina, & Enclosures) and teacher (currently at EHESS and Ecole Polytechnique). She co-organizes the bilingual IVY reading series with Michelle Noteboom in Paris which began in a gallery thanks to curator Susie Hollands. Jennifer is now completing her PhD at Paris III on visual uses of the page in poetry: text and image in works by Anne marie Albiach, Myung Mi Kim and Susan Howe.
Eye Prefer Paris Contest -Extended till next Thursday
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I am pleased as punch to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Tours, which are 3-hour walking tours I will personally be leading. The Eye Prefer Paris Tour includes many of the places I have written about such as small museums & galleries, restaurants, cafes & food markets, secret addresses, fashion & home boutiques, parks, and much more.
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