Disaster: An Art Form?


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Disaster: An Art Form?

The notion of a natural or manmade event creating devastation has captured the imagination of artists since biblical times. Disaster – The End of Days, an exhibition at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac’s new Paris space explores this theme with a collection of contemporary works from a variety of disciplines, ranging from sculpture to video installation.

Whether it be world-scale apocalypse or the personal demise of an individual, the exhibits share a common analysis of the inescapable human experience of disaster. The fresh and lofty atmosphere of the newly opened gallery in Pantin is the perfect setting to house the large works, making it well worth the trip to the north of the city.

Seizing the limelight of the exhibition is American artist Liza Lou’s striking oversized statues of Adam and Eve. The golden figures of The Damned appear to be frozen in time at the moment where they are expulsed from paradise, Adam clutches his head despairingly and Eve’s face is contorted with anguish. Lou is best known for her large-scale bead work, and on closer inspection one can see that the shimmering allure of the statutes comes from thousands of tiny golden beads matted together with stunning detail to form the muscular contours of the figures.

Human-inflicted demise is another facet of the disaster theme. The eerie, masked figures visible through a haze of toxic hues in influential German painter Daniel Richter’s work D.O.A.XL gives one the sense of being in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster. Or, given the allusion to thermal-imaging it could perhaps be viewed as a melancholic prediction into the future of a society obsessed with big-brother style surveillance.

In the same vein, French painter Jules de Balincourt’s ominously named “Not Yet Titled” gives the bleak impression that the artist believes in the inevitable collapse of civilization. The painting depicts a chaotic battle scene, with spectators calmly watching from the hills as if it is some kind of sadistic pyrotechnics show.

Other works are more experimental than observational, toying with the concept of destruction that is inextricably linked to disaster. American artist Banks Violette’s installation Wall of Mirrors demonstrates just this. The immense, mirrored-glass construction is put under pressure by hydraulics to the point where the glass shatters inside the gallery to create the work through the process of demolition.

Whether the impression gained from the exhibition is that of sobering reference to reality or a sci-fi fantasy world, one cannot help but leave with a sense of humbleness and vulnerability, perhaps with just an inkling of paranoia.

DISASTER – The End of Days is exhibiting at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, 69, avenue du Général Leclerc 93500 Pantin, from 3 March to 1 June 2013.

For more information, visit the gallery’s website HERE.

by Jenny Wylie
Gloobbi Representative based in Paris
Images Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

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