76 rue de Turenne 75003 Paris
June 2, July 29, 2023

Perrotin is pleased to present Portrait Mode, a solo exhibition by Xavier Veilhan in Paris. The portrait mode seems like the renewal of a historical genre through its digital transformation: the por- trait (and the self-portrait) has proliferated endlessly. In the exhi- bition, the portrait is presented in two dimensions (by combining the techniques of marquetry and painting) and in three dimen- sions (using digital sculptures of solid wood, among others). The subjects are friends of the artist, members of the studio staff, and everyday animals (birds). Here, the self-celebration of each indi- vidual through the image is replaced by the celebration of all through the object.

The seats by Vico Magistretti and Rick Owens that furnish the studio were used during the sittings. They are reproduced in a smaller size in the statues but also “physically present” in the space: they serve as a living room suite so that the artist can comfortably receive and interact with the visitors.
There is a term that Xavier Veilhan often uses when talking about his work: presence. The presence in the space of the sculptures and of the images that are freed from the two-dimensionality of the wall by materializing as bas-reliefs or illusionistic volumes. The presence of spectators’ bodies walking around perfectly designed exhibitions in the form of gardens or synthetic landscapes. The presence of pas- sersby who share the urban space with his statues of animals, anon- ymous people, monsters, and architects. The presence of the moving bodies of the performers and dancers who often appear in his films or shows.

More recently, the physical presence of Xavier Veilhan the artist has emerged as a new component in his work. He was very physically engaged during the entire Studio Venezia exhibition, the participative recording studio that he created for the French Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale. And he was on stage in Compulsory Figures (2019), a performance created with figure skater Stephen Thompson and designed with scenographer Alexis Bertrand (with whom he has been working since the early 2000s). This primacy of presence could seem strange in a body of work that has often been identified with digital production processes and the interplay of scale they make possible, or which has been reduced to pixelated colored surfaces. But the pandemic that we have all expe- rienced over the past few years—and the in-person/remote dichotomy it established as a daily reality in our lives—patently revealed that thinking about presence cannot be dissociated from reflections on information technologies.

Technical imagination has fueled much of Xavier Veilhan’s work since his early days as an artist: he has made sculptures of vehicles, machines, and mechanisms;1 he has been inspired by the great modern story of the conquest of space;2 he has accompanied the massification of digital images—and the software that allows them to be created and transformed—by producing intriguing generic forms that allegorize this new state of fluid, disembodied, and ubiquitous  images. He has highlighted the “transformation of the way we relate to materials today,”3 and invented surfaces to give form to the widely shared (but not always conscious) intuition that the world of materials and the world of information are now engaged in processes of hybrid- ization. He has reminded us that the systems we use are, first and foremost, programmable and that they are markers of time. By organi- zing the large-scale circulation of his highly photogenic sculptures, online and through images, he has also seized upon the disruptions to the public space resulting from the democratization of the internet, to which his body of work is the exact contemporary.

Jill Gasparina
Art Critic, Curator, teacher at HEAD – Genève

Powered by WordPress