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Reception: Friday, April 13th from 5-8pm

John Opera

John Opera was born in Buffalo, New York in 1975 and earned his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2005. Recent exhibitions include The Suburban, Milwaukee, The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, Transformer Station, Cleveland, Higher Pictures, NYC, Michael Jon Gallery, Miami, Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Chicago. His work has been the subject of a two-person exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and is featured in the second volume of MP3, co-published by Aperture and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago. His work is part of the collections of the De Paul Museum of Art, Chicago, the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY and Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago among others. Opera is currently teaching Photography at DePaul University. He lives and works in Buffalo, NY.

Oval With Grid (black), 2017, Cyanotype, acrylic and vinyl paint on canvas in artist frame, 46h x 36w in

Oval With Grid (blue), 2017, Cyanotype, acrylic and vinyl paint on canvas in artist frame, 46h x 36w in

Double Lens (BP), 2017, Cyanotype, acrylic and vinyl paint on canvas in artist frame, 21h x 17w in

Double Lens (RB), 2017, Cyanotype, acrylic and vinyl paint on canvas in artist frame, 21h x 17w in

Oval (grey), 2017, Cyanotype, acrylic and vinyl paint on canvas in artist frame, 33h x 26w in

Sun/ Sky, 2015, Cyanotype and acrylic on stretched linen, 30h x 20w in

Sun/ Sky, 2015, Cyanotype and acrylic on stretched linen, 30h x 20w in

Sun/ Sky, 2015, Cyanotype and acrylic on stretched linen, 30h x 20w in

Equivalent 05, 2014, Chemically altered cyanotype on stretched linen in artist's frame, 33h x 26w in

Equivalent 01, 2014, Cyanotype on stretched linen in artist's frame, 33h x 26w in

Chains I, 2012, Cyanotype on stretched linen, 48h x 36w in

Blinds III, 2014, Chemically altered cyanotype on stretched linen, 48h x 34w in

JULIEN CREUZET: AFTER THE STORM

Frieze Magazine

April 2018


Bétonsalon & Fondation d’enterprise Ricard, Paris, France

Native to the islands of the Caribbean, the manchineel tree is known in the West by the name the conquistadors gave it. The manzanilla de la muerte – little apple of death – grows along the shore, its fragrant yet toxic green fruit tempting sailors newly arrived from the high seas.

The treacherousness of manchineels is evoked in the haunting, beautiful title of Julien Creuzet’s exhibition at Fondation d’entreprise Ricard: ‘All that sea distance, for the oil filaments of the manchineel to stop our heartbeats. – The rain made that possible (…)’ The other part of this dual show runs at Bétonsalon under a different title, extracted from the same poem, written by the artist. The Bétonsalon title begins ‘The rain made that possible’ and ends ‘All that sea distance’, such that the two follow one another in an endless cycle, like waves lapping upon the shore.

Julien Creuzet, 'La pluie a rendu cela possible' (The rain made this possible), 2018, exhibition view 

Julien Creuzet, ‘La pluie a rendu cela possible’ (The rain made this possible), 2018, installation view, Bétonsalon, Paris

The sea – what it brings and what it takes; what its distance separates and its depths conceal – is central to these exhibitions. The artist himself grew up in Martinique – which is to say that his identity, in part, has been defined by the great in-betweeness of the water, the outre-mer that separates France from its overseas administrative territories.

Each show is a constellation of objects that might have been deposited by a storm tide. Creuzet has previously referred to his whole-show installations as ‘archipelagos’, borrowing Edouard Glissant’s vocabulary of ‘mondiality’ – the influential Martiniquais philosopher’s notion of a global community that preserves diversity and difference. Clumped mattings of natural and synthetic materials are circled with threads that evoke both fishing nets and the paralysing tentacles of the Portuguese man o’war. (Named for the armed galleons whose wind-inflated sails their floating polyps resemble, the transparent tentacles of these colonies of organisms can extend for up to 50 metres underwater. They offer an apt metaphor for the insidious residues of European imperialism.) A nacreous shell balances on a slice of Nike shoe; a sponge, air-dried and desiccated, nestles next to a row of aeroplane seats that seem to have landed sideways from the sky on a new crossing of an old journey.

At Bétonsalon, Chinese-made plastic mats, woven with African patterns, fray like the tops of mangled sugarcane or grasses in the sand-dunes – overlayingcontemporary and historical trade networks, and the circulation of cultural signifiers in a hyper-connected world. Plastics, products of the petrochemicals industry that defines the global economy even as it threatens to destroy it, are conspicuously present here – although, as with the grassy mats and the green plastic beads scattered on the floor like sand-grains, they often evoke natural forms. Ecological questions are complexly layered with social ones.

Julien Creuzet, 'La pluie a rendu cela possible' (The rain made this possible), 2018, exhibition view 

Julien Creuzet, ‘La pluie a rendu cela possible’ (The rain made this possible), 2018, installation view, Bétonsalon, Paris

More than archipelagos, to me these exhibitions feel like mangroves: their trees evoked by the wrapped, vertical, twig-like forms suspended from the ceilings at both venues. They are filled with the mysteries and shadows that this edge-of-water zone holds in the Caribbean imaginary. Two ghostly, prone anthropomorphic figures, both black – a flattened silhouette at Bétonsalon and a mesh-wrapped baby with a face resembling an African mask at Fondation Ricard – recall the horrors of the middle passage, as well as more recent European tragedies of migration.

Both spaces resonate with the sound of the artist’s voice, as he incants songs drawn from the title poem. At Bétonsalon, a refrain repeats over a sparse melody: ‘Il faut refaire le tour […] il faut refaire le temps’. Creuzet, who often uses poetry and music in his work, is at his most mesmeric here, taking his words off the page and making them felt, physical. ‘We need to go back […] we need to remake time’: for all the violence and difficulty of his themes, I get the sense that Creuzet’s worldview, like Glissant’s, is generous, perhaps even hopeful. Maybe, in the thickets of the mangrove, there is a way forward together.

Main image: Julien Creuzet, ‘La pluie a rendu cela possible’ (The rain made this possible), 2018, installation view, Bétonsalon, Paris

Amy Sherlock is deputy editor of frieze and is based in London.

Owner
Aron Gent
aron@documentspace.com
Director
Sibylle Friche
sibylle@documentspace.com
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Gallery hours:
Tuesday-Saturday: 11am-6pm

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DOCUMENT is a commercial gallery located in Chicago that specializes in contemporary photography, film and media based art. The gallery has organized more than 30 solo exhibitions since its opening in 2011 and actively promotes the work of emerging national and international artists. Operating conjointly as a professional printmaking studio, DOCUMENT facilitates the production of works by artists from Chicago and the US. At this time we do not accept unsolicited submissions.