Jouin, Erró, Sarkis

February 16, 2010By Heidi EllisonArchive
Jouin, Erró, Sarkis, Centre Pompidou, Paris

Mathieu Mercier’s “Lampe Double Douille” (1999). Buy-Sellf, CAPC. Courtesy of the artist

The Centre Pompidou opened three small exhibitions last week, all of them hidden away …

Jouin, Erró, Sarkis, Centre Pompidou, Paris

Mathieu Mercier’s “Lampe Double Douille” (1999). Buy-Sellf, CAPC. Courtesy of the artist

The Centre Pompidou opened three small exhibitions last week, all of them hidden away in various corners of the museum.

“Patrick Jouin: La Substance du Design” (through May 24) is an informative little show on a designer who has a lot to do with the way Paris looks today: he designed not only the city’s new public toilets (click here for video demonstration), but also the hardware for the Vélib’ system of short-term bicycle rentals. (What I want to know is, is he the one responsible for the popularity of the now-ubiquitous color greige, which he used for both of these contributions to Paris’s “street furniture”? The French seem to think it is elegant, but I find it dull.)

The exhibition is presented in two rooms. The first gets visitors inside the designer’s mind by showing his sketches and various working models for different objects, made from cardboard, carved wood or other materials. The wallpaper, covered with trompe-l’œil bookcases and tacked-up notes, offers more information in the form of photos and drawings. One entire wall is taken up with an interesting video presentation (with English subtitles) in which the life-sized designer and manufacturers explain the research and development process, notably for the street toilets.

The final results are presented in the second room. Jouin’s pieces are generally sleek and understated, but he has occasional moments of poetry – the “Ether” light fixture, for example, with hanging strings of fragile transparent Murano glass orbs lit from above. More extravagant is the “Bloom” table lamp, whose shade opens like a flower, but which I find rather ugly. My favorite piece in this show is the immensely practical “Pasta Pot” (made by Alessi). Not only does it have a beautiful streamlined design, but it comes with a melamine spoon that sits snugly into to the handle, so that the drips go back into the pot, not onto the countertop. Developed with chef Alain Ducasse, it comes with a lid and trivet, and supposedly makes it possible to cook pasta and its sauce at the same time, as olive pickers used to do in the fields.

erro, centre pompidou, paris

Erró’s “The Defeat of the Spanish Armada” (c. 1977). © ADAGP, Paris 2010. © Collection Centre Pompidou/MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN. Photo: Philippe Migeat

“Erró: 50 Ans de Collages” shows for the first time the collages made by this painter, a representative of the “Narrative Figuration” movement and a native of Iceland who has lived most of his adult life in Paris. The artist uses these collages as studies for paintings, but they stand alone as works of art as well.

These wildly colorful explosions of printed images juxtaposed with more than a touch of Surrealism and wit might not be to everyone’s taste but are always interesting to examine. Those made in the 1950s often played on Western fears, with rather obvious but amusing results: hordes of Chinese revolutionaries invading nice, clean, suburban homes in the West, for example. As the years pass, the collages become more subtle and complex, although many still carry a political message or a comment on consumer society. One group relies mainly on comic-book images and is full of Robert Crumb-like spoofy sexuality. These visual mashups not only filch printed images from magazines, comic books, etc., but also reproduce iconic paintings by Matisse, Picasso, Léger, etc.

sarkis, centre pompidou, paris

Sarkis’s “12 Kriegsschatz Dance with Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring” (1989-2002). © Adagp, Paris 2010

The four Sarkis installations on show, collectively entitled “Passages” (through June 21) are also full of political comment but with a darker, more intellectual tone. The works are spread throughout the museum, each one placed next to another artist’s work it is supposed to “converse” with. “Felt Contains All Colors,” for example, is placed at the entrance to the highly effective Joseph Beuys installation “Plight,” a low-ceilinged gray-felt-lined room with an oppressive atmosphere and odor (and a grand piano parked in the middle of it). Sarkis’s piece consists of a felt wall hanging shaped like a stylized man’s suit and a box of felt slippers, which may be a wry comment on the Beuys work, but doesn’t require any lingering.

The most interesting of the Sarkis pieces can be found in the Atelier Brancusi, the small building in front of the museum that houses the contents of the sculptor’s studio. Here Sarkis has placed a hypnotic installation called “12 Kriegsschatz Dansent avec le Sacre du Printemps d’Igor Stravinsky” 1989-2002 (“Kriegsschatz” means “spoils of war”). It consists of 12 statuettes from different eras and cultures, each sitting on its own rotating post draped with magnetic tape bearing a recording of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, all of them on a rotating platform placed in front of a mirror on which a 1928 film by Vsevolod Pudovkin, Storm over Asia, is projected. All the conceptual references aside, this piece has a haunting effect that Sarkis’s works often seem to try but fail to achieve.

Other installations by Sarkis will appear in the museum on April 4 and April 21.

Heidi Ellison

Centre Pompidou: 19, rue Beaubourg, 75004 Paris. Tel.: 01 44 78 12 33. Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Closed Tuesday. Métro: Rambuteau. Admission: €10-€12..

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