Thu 8 Dec 2022 to Sat 28 Jan 2023
5 rue du Pont de Lodi, 75006 Valentin Carron: Bonjour Monsieur Serpent !
Artist: Valentin Carron
The Boy with Thorn, extracted by Valentin Carron from the catalogue of sculptures that have left their mark on art history, has been one of the most frequently copied by artists from Antiquity to the present day, with museums joining in when the fashion for merchandising meant that visitors could leave with miniature reproductions of the masterpieces they had seen there. The introspective figure, depicted as he tries to remove from his foot a thorn that has been preventing him from moving forward, signals a new direction for an artist better known for his appropriations than for a studio practice in the tradition of modern sculpture. While the notion of the sculptural has always been at the heart of his work, this new series sees the return of his hand. Out of modelling clay borrowed from his daughters, he forms little characters alone or in pairs, in a repeated attempt to create a connection. At a time of ‘divided families’, fathers have learned to take their children by the hand, and this new series of adults carrying children in their arms seems to complete a forgotten section in the history of representations of the family.
These pocket sculptures have each been fired in Carron’s kitchen oven, then scanned, enlarged, and imprecisely re-sculpted from a wooden block by a high-precision machine. The wood is larch, from one of the most ancient species of conifer. It is found in abundance in the Valais region where the artist lives and is traditionally used for the construction of frame structures and chalets. The wooden sculptures hand-painted by Carron now face the viewer from their museum pedestals.
The transubstantiation of one material into another is at the heart of a fragile dynamic that spans his entire body of work, wavering between authenticity and artifice, honesty and duplicity, humility and pride, like the title given to the exhibition, which echoes Gustave Courbet’s famous painting La Rencontre (The Meeting). Now usually known (not without a touch of irony) as Bonjour Monsieur Courbet !, this painting was unveiled at the 1855 Exposition Universelle and was judged by critics to be ‘the manifestation of a monstrous pride’. It depicts the leader of the realist movement as a character ready to conquer the world, his pilgrim’s staff in hand, standing before a benefactor who is out in the company of his manservant and his dog. Evocative of the Grand Tour of the Renaissance artists who crossed over the Swiss Alps into Italy, the figure of the pilgrim is reproduced in the exhibition in a dual form, leaning with one hand on his staff while with the other he hides behind his back what appears to be a dagger. This duplicity is one of many ways Valentin Carron plays with his wonted ambivalence, representing himself here as a snake moving through art history in order to commit what he calls his ‘robberies’. The snake is a recurring motif in the artist's body of work, borrowed from the typecast handicraft of the ironwork decorations on the Art Nouveau façades in Zurich. The reptile traces a line through the space that helps orientate the viewer, unless what it actually evokes is Carron’s past as a skater, ‘snaking’ his peers in order to come out in front.
— Christian Alandete
Born in 1977 in Martigny (Switzerland), VALENTIN CARRON lives and works there.
His work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions: at the Kunsthalle in Bern, the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the Conservera Centro de Arte Contemporáneo in Ceutí/Murcia, the Kunsthalle Zürich, the Swiss Institute in New York, the Chisenhale Gallery in London (with Mai-Thu Perret), the Centre d’Art Contemporain de Genève (with Mai-Thu Perret), the Fri Art in Freiburg; and group exhibitions: at the Fondation Van Gogh, Arles, the Sculpture Center in New York, the mudac in Lausanne, the Migros Museum Für Gegenwartskunst in Zurich, the Kunsthaus in Aarau, the Consortium of Dijon, the Rubell Family Collection in Miami, the Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne, the CAPC-musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux. Valentin Carron represented Switzerland at the 55th Venice Biennale of Contemporary Art in 2013.