Galerie Nathalie Obadia presents Un cheval, des silex (One Horse, Some Flints), Benoît Maire’s first solo show at the gallery. The artist, born in Pessac in 1978, creates work that is protean: at the intersection of aesthetics and visual arts, it questions the limits of representation. His work calls on painting, sculpture, photography, video, writing, and performance.
He is at present the subject of a large exhibition at the CAPC Contemporary Art Museum of Bordeaux, until September 2, 2018, and his first monograph, published by the CAPC, will be out on May 19.
For this exhibition, Benoît Maire combines different works: Peintures de nuages (Cloud Paintings) hang on the walls, the Sphinx (Sphinxes) are suspended in mid-air, and Châteaux (Castles) sit atop pedestals or peculiar pieces of furniture. Some of his works levitate around us, while others seem to emerge from their bases to put themselves on display, but all co-exist to give body to an ambiguity (which, therefore, can be interpreted in two or more different ways).
The Peintures de nuages inscribe themselves in a series that the artist began in 2012. The works are oils on canvases, varying in format, upon which he depicts clouds, using a spray gun, paintbrush, or painting knife. The result is at times fluid and at others vaporous, with its translucent glazes. These paintings give birth to motifs that turn into figures who question the limits of abstraction by playing with the concept of pareidolia—a psychological phenomenon by which we recognize familiar shapes in landscapes, clouds, or ink stains. Through his careful composition and use of pentimenti, Benoît Maire invites us to project our imagination on these colorful backdrops and on these clouds with their blurry outlines.
The Sphinx and Châteaux are sculptures that confront natural objects with manufactured ones. The artist questions these elements by assembling different shapes, colors, and materials. Suspended shells float next to pieces of molded crystal; metal structures are affixed to bubble levels; a fossilized rock points at us. These simultaneously concrete and conceptual assemblages are polysemous: beyond ready-mades, Benoît Maire examines the nature and power of his objects, while at the same time bestowing upon them a quasi-anthropomorphic dimension.
In Benoît Maire’s work, material is not just physical: it is also theoretical. Art and philosophy are inseparable. Concepts elaborated by Lyotard, Agamben, Bataille, or Lacan flood his works the way physical substances can. While it is the distinction between nature and culture that comes into question, Benoît Maire is also interested in the intrinsic qualities of the objects, which he chooses for their enigmatic power. His first exhibition at the gallery, Un cheval, des silex, rests on the axiom that “the plural of horse is flints.” The artist, whose sense of humor suffuses his work, appears to be teasing us: what can he possibly mean by suggesting that the plural of horse would be flints? A conundrum prevails and hangs over the suspended landscape of this installation, and, while it remains unresolved, the enigma seems to go on forever.
Benoît Maire was born in 1978, in Pessac (France). He lives and works in Bordeaux (France).
About ten years ago, the artist began to write a manual of aesthetics, where images, objects, and texts come together to question contemporary aesthetics.
Benoît Maire received his DNSEP degree from the Arson Villa in Nice (France, 2003) and a master’s degree in Philosophy from Sorbonne, Paris 1 (France, 2002). He was granted a residency at the Palais de Tokyo, in Paris (France, 2005-2006).all images © the gallery and the artist(s)