Perrotin Hong Kong is pleased to present Future Herbarium by renowned French artist Laurent Grasso, whose practice is concerned with heterogeneous temporalities, geographies, and paranormal phenomena, and spurring a new perspective on history and reality by materializing what lies behind common perception.
The exhibition, Grasso’s first solo presentation with Perrotin in Hong Kong, is titled after his latest investigation into the idea of exploring the contemporary world anew. Key to these ongoing studies is his recently debuted film Artificialis, which was produced in collaboration with the Musée d’Orsay, in dialogue with its exhibition, The Origins of the World: The Invention of Nature in the 19th Century.
In parallel to his monumental installation Artificialis at Musée d’Orsay, Grasso developed Future Herbarium, a body of painted and sculpted flowers executed in the manner of nineteenth-century herbariums, shaped by observations of different species of flowers that mutated after the Fukushima disaster in Japan.
Exhibited alongside Future Herbarium, Solar Wind, a video installation also presented at the new Jeonnam Museum of Art, South Korea in March, explores concepts of science, belief, illusion, and fiction, based on the artist’s interest in solar storms and space meteorology. Inspired by his permanent light installation on the outskirts of the thirteenth arrondissement in Paris, Solar Wind visually renders in real time, in the form of colored undulations, the activity occurring on the surface of the Sun.
I designed the project around my interest in theories about the sun. Solar Wind, shown on a LED screen, and as a site-specific projection, is an object that shines on the other works. Thus, the project relates solar rays emitted through the video onto the herbarium, as if they were exposed to these rays.
(Left) This small sculpture set in a case looks like a “fossil of the future” in that it fictitiously reproduces a flower that has mutated after a catastrophe and has been “recorded” in stone. (Right) A double-hearted mutated flower in white bronze, mounted on a long stem, is juxtaposed with Solar Wind, plunging the spectator into a strange forest.
The artist repurposed techniques used in neon fabrication to create spherical glass bulbs filled with bluish argon gas. The intangible yet luminous gas fills the enclosed globes with its presence, a reference to the spheres present in his previous film, OttO (2018). There is an attempt to contain an immaterial phenomenon within the constellation of spheres not unlike the test tube on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit which is said to contain Thomas Edison’s final breath.
I think, for artists, that time has become a medium to work with like any other. My work moves both toward the past and toward the future to offer an interpretation of the world in a broader time span.
Also on view are new works from Grasso’s emblematic series, Studies into the Past, which he initiated in 2009, reconstituting methods and imagery used by the Italian and Flemish masters of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, including here Italian Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione (1688–1766), who served as an official portraitist for the imperial court through the reign of three Qing emperors in China.
In Studies into the Past, the mythological and religious narrative elements characteristic of the period have been replaced by celestial phenomena rarely illustrated before the nineteenth century — eclipses, auroras borealis, meteorites — but also strange clouds of smoke, a rock hovering over a landscape, an incongruous flight of birds in a forest, motifs that are often borrowed from the artist’s own films. This insertion of fragments of the future into paintings from the past does more than simply creating a sense of anachronism. It is a major conceptual project aimed at reconstructing our perception of the reality of another era.
Studies into the Past explores the idea of beauty subject to the “wrath of God.” At a time when the world was utterly undiscovered—geographically, scientifically, culturally, and economically—such alien events were as incredible as they were apocalyptic.
Artificialis explores the historical issues addressed in the exhibition at Musée d’Orsay, The Origins of the World: The Invention of Nature in the 19th Century, with a purpose to highlight the depleted distinction between nature and culture, reframing our world within the context of the museum.
Born in 1972 in Mulhouse, France
Lives and works between Paris, France and New York, New York, USA
Laurent Grasso's work addresses different scales and temporalities across multiple media. He has questioned the structure of the museum, the history of art, themes of nature and culture, as well as notions of science and technology. Major exhibitions include: Gakona, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2009; Black Box, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., 2011; Uraniborg, Jeu de Paume, Paris, 2012; Musée d'Art Contemporain, Montreal, 2013; Soleil Noir, Fondation Hermès, Tokyo, 2015; PARAMUSEUM, Palais Fesch, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Ajaccio, 2016; OttO, Biennale of Sydney, 2018; and Perrotin, Paris, 2018.
In December 2020, Grasso debuted his film Artificialis (2020) at Musée d’Orsay in response to the museum's exhibition The Origins of the World: The Invention of Nature in the 19th Century. From March 22 through August 8, 2021, a selection of works from his new series Future Herbarium, and his films OttO (2018) , Soleil Noir (2014) and Solar Wind (2020), will be featured in the inaugural exhibition of The Jeonnam Museum of Art, Gwangyang, South Korea.
Grasso was awarded the Prix Marcel-Duchamp (2008), and was a resident of the French Academy in Rome - Villa Medici (2004-2005). He was commissioned to create Solar Wind (2016), a permanent public installation projected onto the walls of the Calcia silos located on the outskirts of the thirteenth arrondissement in Paris.
*Produced at the invitation of the Musée d'Orsay, the film Artificialis benefitted from the generous support of the American Friends of the Musée d'Orsay and the exceptional collaboration of Perrotin.
—More about the artist