Galerie Perrotin, 76 rue de Turenne,75003 Paris , Tel
March 16 - June 8, 2019

‘And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven.’ From Genesis to the histories of Herodotus, between history and myth, the Tower of Babel and its destruction have fired the imagination. What remains of this ziggurat, this architectural utopia and symbolic link between heaven and earth? What happened to the millions of bricks used to erect it? What new utopias were built on the ruins of that thwarted aspiration? These are the questions that underlie Jean-Michel Othoniel’s latest works, presented for the first time at Galerie Perrotin in Paris. For this exhibition, which brings together fifteen minimalistic, enigmatic sculptures made of glass or metal bricks, the artist has systematized the use of a module that entered his work in 2009, after a journey to India. On the road from Delhi to Firozabad, a city with an age-old glassmaking tradition, he was struck by the stacks of bricks accumulated in the hope of building a house and by the countless altars covered in offerings and multicoloured necklaces. Since then, he has called on the knowledge of Indian glassblowers to blow blue, amber, yellow and grey glass bricks. A modular element – like the glass beads that have been his hallmark since 1993 – brick has led Jean-Michel Othoniel towards more refined, more radical works, somewhere between sculpture and architecture, enabling a new monumentality inaugurated with Precious Stonewall (2010), a gigantic monolith covered in necklaces, and developed, more recently, with the impressive Big Wave (2018), which measures 15 metres long and 6 metres high. In brick, the artist has found a universal element, a common denominator between cultures and one that has traversed the history of humanity. Feeding his latest research and generating material for new ‘obsessions’, brick enables him to reach the architectural scale he was aiming for and to try out cantilevered constructions, to go beyond the idea of sculpture, to invent a new relation to space, to rethink the embedding in the landscape, to radicalize his relation to geometry or to create places – grottoes, paths, walls, agoras – that set out a different relationship to the body, thereby synthesizing the recurrent themes of his oeuvre. If, for his exhibition at Galerie Perrotin in New York in March 2018, glass-bead sculptures and drawings were engaged in a dialogue with brick works, Othoniel has here chosen to concentrate exclusively on this new serial element in glass or stainless steel through abstract, monochrome propositions close to the language of minimalist art.

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