Aaron Curry

CAPC MUSÉE D'ART CONTEMPORAIN
7 rue Ferrère
June 28–September 21

View of “Bad Brain,” 2014.

The Day-Glo figures gamboling through Aaron Curry’s retrospective “Bad Brain” seem like an answer to Wallace Stevens’s lament for modern imagination, written exactly a century ago. For the poet of “Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock,” all marvelous fancies have abandoned the middle-class mind, haunted henceforth only by the soberest ghosts.

Curry's exhibition is haunted, too, but with the exuberant nightgowns that Stevens was missing: “purple with green rings/ or green with yellow rings/ or yellow with blue rings.../ with socks of lace/ and beaded ceintures” — or, say, Picasso with H.C. Westerman, Calder with Heehaw, with nods to corporate plaza art and underground comics. But this pile-up of citations produces its own kind of disillusionment, its own late-hour malaise. Curry’s sculptures, whose volumes are built out from slats of painted wood and aluminum, approach cultural “flattening” with flat-footed literalness. For this critic, it is almost impossible to say whether they rescue the composite of cultural reference from this flattening through formal panache, or surrender to its senseless accumulation. Curry gamely suspends this ambivalence by presenting an anachronic retrospective, without a speck of narrative resolution in sight. Eighty works produced since 2003 are distributed through the CAPC’s central nave and the corridor encircling it, where Curry’s collages, including an uncanny series of Greco-Roman busts masked and/or/also disfigured by his intervention, footnote his more monumental figures.

The exhibition, along with two smaller but equally impressive shows by Los Angeles–based artists Carter Mull and Dan Finsel, fêtes fifty years of cultural diplomacy between Bordeaux and LA, which became sister-cities in 1964. What emerges, however, is the age difference. If Bordeaux has more years to its name, LA has a worldly sense of a future subjectivity brokered almost entirely to an image-world. A “bad brain,” perhaps, but one inhabited by some fantastic specters.

Joanna Fiduccia

Anita Molinero

LE CONSORTIUM
37 rue de Longvic
June 21–September 28

Since the 1980s, French sculptor Anita Molinero has worked almost exclusively with domestic and often toxic materials, cauterizing, deforming, and smelting chemically fabricated, factory-produced objects. Her current solo exhibition, “Oreo,” appraises the material and conceptual consistency of manufactured products intended to control circulation––traffic signs, road barriers, speed bumps, various packaging materials, etc.––as well as their status as industrially made, environmentally hazardous commodities designed for the public domain.

Take, for example, an untitled series of five large-scale, plastic water tanks that have undergone various degrees of violent compression. Here, flow and circulation congest as these transportable receptacles––meant to contain and regulate the issue of their liquid contents––are left crushed, desiccated, and detached from their intended courses of distribution. More subversive is a new series of modestly sized concrete bricks that the artist took from Paris’s peripheral ring and used here as wall-fixed supports for scraps of litter such as plastic bags or fast-food restaurant containers. Coated in layers of graffiti, these hijacked slabs testify to their former station as demarcations between an insulated cultural capital and the hot, ethnically diverse banlieues, which encircle and chafe the city’s perimeter.

Containment is imported as a power-driven form of regulation in this exhibition, as in Untitled, 2014, an incinerated, monumental block of insulated polystyrene squares suspended from the ceiling. Here, containers become the contained as defective packaging products converted to effective artwork in a rapid recycling of fungible currency. This well-oiled slippage between art and industry, public asset and public onus, is at the crux of Molinero’s sculptural practice.

Julian Elias Bronner

“Formes Simples”

CENTRE POMPIDOU-METZ
1, parvis des Droits-de-l’Homme
June 13–November 11

View of “Formes Simples” (Simple Shapes), 2014.

Dividing its broad conceit across seventeen thematic subsections, “Formes Simples” (Simple Shapes) juxtaposes artworks and artifacts whose provenances span approximately five thousand years and thirty countries based on their formal similarities. The first room of the exhibition, however, showcases works related by their formlessness. Diverse examples of art informel, to use French art critic Michel Tapié’s 1952 coinage, include a gloppy cement sculpture by Anish Kapoor (untitled, 2013), a barely figurative terra-cotta study for Auguste Rodin’s famous portrait-sculpture of Balzac (Balzac, robe de chambre [Balzac, Dressing Gown], 1897), an anonymous sixteenth-century Italian drapery study in oil, and a trio of Hiroshi Sugimoto waterscape photographs from the 1990s. Presented under the heading “Before Shape,” this motley mélange of two- and three-dimensional objects attunes the viewer to how each artwork’s physical presence is defined, to a certain extent, by its medium.

Another section, titled “Who Could Better This Propeller?” (a quote attributed to Marcel Duchamp in a conversation with Fernand Léger in 1912, the year of the fourth International Exposition of Aerial Locomotion in Paris), draws somewhat obvious formal comparisons between modern masterpieces such as Constantin Brâncuși’s Bird in Space, 1936, and elegant feats of twentieth-century engineering. Elsewhere in the exhibition, geometric abstractions by Ellsworth Kelly and Tony Smith are likened to scientific and quotidian implements ranging from an ancient Egyptian eye-shadow palette to an eighteenth-century set of terra-cotta crystallographic models (which, given their context here, could easily be mistaken for part of Allan McCollum’s series of unique silhouette-like forms, “The SHAPES Projects”). The most surprising links are in the “Shapes-Forces” section, which features a curved moldboard designed by Thomas Jefferson to make plows turn over sod more efficiently and a photograph of modern dance pioneer Loie Fuller during a signature spinning performance at the Folies-Bergère.

Mara Hoberman