Reception: Saturday November 7 > 5-8pm

Paul Mpagi Sepuya: Figures / Grounds / Studies

A Script for the Pleasures of Unsanctioned Knowledge Idle Pictures

(an excerpt)

01 – He wanted to do something . . . to write or draw . . . or something . . . but it was so comfortable just to lay there on the bed . . . . . . his shoes off … and think … think of everything . . . short disconnected thoughts-to wonder. . . to remember . . . to think and smoke . . . 1

03  [In 1934] Cecil Beaton captures his mentor Pavel Tchelitchew painting the portrait of the unconsummated love of Beaton’s life, Peter Watson, who is pointedly avoiding the layers of looking of which he is the object but whose stare out of the frame looking at us is even more intent that Tchelitchew’s glance at Beaton. (Waugh 27)

04 – In 1936, Carl Van Vechten photographs Richard Bruce Nugent, and as a slight, places a bust of Antinous hanging above his head.

06 – STUDIO VISIT(S)2

Paul uses the phrase “concentric circles” in describing his interest in the diaries of Bloomsbury lesbians. Their overlapping lives and the ways in which their writings overlap fascinate him. I’m not too so sure, but his summation (“They are either gardening or about to kill themselves after a breakup”) makes them sound like a good read.

Concentric circles are on my mind whenever I’ve gone up to Harlem to visit Paul in his studio. I picture, incorrectly, Venn diagrams with grade-school blue and yellow circles and the muddy green oval they have in common. I think about the ways that lives intersect because there, tacked up on the walls and scattered and stacked on the floor, are photographs of men (and the occasional lady) who I have seen in bars and on sidewalks for years, have met at one of Paul’s dinner parties, or worked under.

There are portraits of friends, people who I want to meet, and guys I’m just beginning to get to know. It’s a bit like a social network mapped out on the wall.

07

ME: its strange you know

HIM: i kind of thought about this website as a separate entity where i would try out feelings, emotions and experiences, on people i didnt relate to really and then apply those experiences onto “real” people i would meet in every day life

ME: i found my neighbor on here. as in, his bedroom is on the opposite side of my bedroom wall!

HIM: but now its become a life of its own, dragging me through my deepest wounds and through my most personal social affiliations

ME: yes, things dont always work out as you forsee them

HIM: especially in the realm of, well this space is safe and not connected…

11:35 PM

That was an excerpt of an online conversation from Manhunt, September 27, 2007, 11:35pm. It’s saved in a folder on my computer, time stamped. I have no reason why. Five years later, I photographed the neighbor on the other side of my bedroom wall. The portrait is called, Paul, before the move. We share the same name, and the same birthday. But that’s not the neighbor I was talking about in the text above, but it’s the same room, same wall.

08 – Paul. Christopher Isherwood calls him “Paul.” But his name is Denham, or Denny.3

09 – (back to Ryan)

But I say incorrectly because while writing this I looked up “concentric circles” and discovered that they are, in fact, circles that share the same center. They fit inside of one another, like a bull’s-eye. This strikes me as more apt, because more than a mere representation of Paul’s social world, the accumulation and repetition of images of objects and people in the studio seem to have the power to collapse time in a funny way. The potted succulent and shriveled orange peel that sit on the window ledge are the same ones in the framed photograph that leans beside them. When my boots and shirt get cast aside, they end up slumped over a portrait that Paul took of me months before. While I take my pants off, the Beyoncé that we’re listening to is the same Beyoncé that we danced to a few nights earlier. Paul asks me to recreate poses struck a week ago by someone I recognize but don’t personally know. I realize I could listen to Beyoncé and talk about Beyoncé pants-less with Paul all day.

Concentric circles.

13 – A multiply-produced photograph acknowledges both the preexistent desire of the individual spectator and the presence of another or others as well, a whole class. A chain of production and circulation lies behind the surface of the image. (Waugh 27)

15 – (now really, back to Ryan)

I stared to keep a diary faithfully after picking up a volume of Virginia Woolf’s diaries, but that was even before Paul had told me of his interest in all of her friends. Perhaps this is why we are friends? On my first trip uptown to sit for Paul, he read aloud from one of Virginia Woolf’s letters about the prospect of sitting for Cecil Beaton: “Really, it’s worse than being bound in Morocco by Lytton, and read by all the tarts of the moment. Which reminds me, do you know a man of that persuasion called Cecil Beaton – who wants to photograph me, and Osbert will comment up on the portrait in a catalogue; and shall I go and be done? I say no: I say I am living perpetually in Sussex. I say, judging from your style and manner (this is what I say to Cecil Beaton) you are a Mere Catamite. Clive who came in yesterday, dropping with sleep after what I understood was an orgy, confirmed this.” 4

ADDENDUM

December 9, 2014

Paul,

Sorry I’ve taken a while to get back to you! There were the holidays and family and some traveling.

We’ve talked it over a lot actually, but I think we’d rather not be photographed. Because our relationship is somewhat unusual, we feel a little sensitive about displaying it and ourselves publicly for various reasons: shyness, privacy, how the relationship figures into our own work, etc.

I hope you understand! We should all get together and hang out sometime regardless!

Hope you’re doing well,

—— [ name removed]


1 I begin with Richard Bruce Nugent’s text, Smoke, Lilies, and Jade, published 1926 in the single-issue magazine FIRE! For more on R.B.N. and queer subjectivity in literature, see Joseph Allen Boone’s “Libidinal Currents,” University of Chicago Press, 1998, and Christopher Vitale’s “The Untimely Richard Bruce Nugent,” New York University, 2007.

2 While my residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem was coming to an end in the fall of 2011 I asked several friends who had spent time with me in the space to share their thoughts about the experience. “Studio Visits” is written by Ryan Chassee. Our friendship’s beginning coincided with the start of the SMH residency, and I have continued to photograph him in the years since.

3 See Isherwood’s “Down There on a Visit,” and the story, specifically, titled Paul. For more on Denham Fouts, see Arthur Vanderbilt’s “The Best-Kept Boy in the World: The Life and Loves of Denham Fouts,” Magnus Books, 2013.

4 From a letter of Virgina Woolf’s to Vita Sackville-West, dated October 9, 1927, in The Letters of Virginia Woolf, Volume III 1923 – 1928, edited by Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann. Nicolson is the son of Vita Sackville-West, a lover of Woolf and the model for Orlando, which would be published a year later in October 1928. Sackville-West would write in response to receiving Orlando, on October 11, 1928 “… you have invented a new for of Narcissism, — I confess, — I am in love with Orlando – this is a complication I had not forseen.” (also included in Letters.., Volume III).

Elizabeth Atterbury

Elizabeth Atterbury (born 1982, West Palm Beach, FL) lives and works in Portland, Maine. Recent solo and group shows include Kate Werble Gallery, The Portland Museum of Art, Mrs, The Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, kijidome, Boston, Document, Chicago, TSA, Brooklyn, Bodega, Philadelphia/New York, KANSAS, New York, and The ICA at Maine College of Art, Portland, among others. In the Middle, An Oasis, a monograph of her work, was published by Bodega Press in 2013.

She received her BA from Hampshire College and her MFA from MassArt.

The Well, The Wall, 2016 Silver gelatin print 20 x 24 in

The Well, The Wall II, 2016 Silver gelatin print 20 x 24 in

Beach Woks (Marks of a Tool II), 2016 Silver gelatin print 20 x 24 in

Still Life with Popcorn and Pits, 2016 Silver gelatin print 11 x 14 in

Logogram III, 2016 Silver gelatin print 20 x 24 in

Logogram II, 2016 Silver gelatin print 20 x 24 in

Logogram I, 2016 Silver gelatin print 20 x 24 in

Sunny Side, FL (Tomb), 2016 Enamel paint, steel 12 x 7 1/2 x 5 1/2 in

Sunny Side, FL (The Cut), 2016 Enamel paint, steel 13 1/2 x 28 1/2 x 1 1/4 in

Sunny Side, FL (Sunset Hedge), 2016 Enamel paint, steel 1 1/2 x 16 x 2 1/2 in

Sunny Side, FL (Small House), 2016 Enamel paint, steel 1 x 16 3/4 x 14 1/2 in

Sunny Side, FL (Bull Shark), 2016 Enamel paint, steel 2 1/2 x 18 x 1 1/2 in

Sunny Side, FL (Paper Cut / Hedge), 2016 Enamel paint, steel 10 x 9 x 1 3/4 in

Sunny Side, FL (Noguchi's Intetra, Mist Fountain), 2016 Enamel paint, steel 11 x 9 1/2 x 9 1/2 in

Sunny Side, FL (Lawn), 2016 Enamel paint, steel 9 x 9 in

Sunny Side, FL (Big House), 2016 Enamel paint, steel 16 x 18 x 6 in

Sunny Side, FL (Palms), 2015 Enamel paint, steel 17 1/2 x 11 x 16 in

Relief (China White), 2015 Plywood and paint 33 x 48 x 1 3/4 in

Moonlight on the river, 2014, chromogenic print 14 x 11 in

Slow Song, 2014, chromogenic print 14 x 11 in

Marks of a tool, 2014, silver gelatin print 11 x 14 in

Rake, 2014, Silver gelatin print 24h x 20w in

Ghost Tracks, 2014, Silver gelatin print 24h x 20w in

Black Beach, 2014, silver gelatin print 14 x 11 in.

Bones, 2014 Silver gelatin print 11 x 14 in

Glyphs II, 2014 Silver gelatin print 11 x 14 in

Glyphs, 2014 Silver gelatin print 11 x 14 in

Site, 2014 Silver gelatin print 11 x 14 in

Sculpture Park, 2014 Silver gelatin print 11 x 14 in

Bricks, 2013, chromogenic print 14 x 11 in

Harry, Henri, Sal, 2013, chromogenic print 14 x 11 in

Blue runner, 2013, chromogenic print 14 x 11 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.

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Aron Gent
aron@documentspace.com
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Sibylle Friche
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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.