May 24 - June 29, 2024
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2bis avenue Matignon
75008 Paris France

Perrotin Paris is pleased to present Distant Cities, Kelly Beeman's first solo exhibition in France, and her third with the gallery (Seoul, 2022; New York, 2023). The exhibition features three new oil paintings and 20 works on paper, including monochromatic ink paintings—a medium she has recently begun exploring.

View of Kelly Beeman's exhibition 'Distant Cities' at Perrotin Matignon, Paris, 2024. Photo: Tanguy Beurdeley. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin
View of Kelly Beeman's exhibition 'Distant Cities' at Perrotin Matignon, Paris, 2024. Photo: Tanguy Beurdeley. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin
View of Kelly Beeman's exhibition 'Distant Cities' at Perrotin Matignon, Paris, 2024. Photo: Tanguy Beurdeley. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin

In Kelly Beeman’s work, life flows serenely. Young girls bask in the tranquility of North American parks and gardens. Nature is idyllic, and nothing seems to disturb the peace of the languid protagonists. Singing, playing the piano, lying on beds or lush patches of grass, striking a pose on a shopping street, or holding a bouquet of white flowers, these girls inhabit a world of serenity, luxury, and pleasure.

Yet we know that the “real” world is very different, marred by aggression, violence, tension, and war, leaving little room for relaxation and personal well-being. Beeman’s vision is a Platonic ideal, depicting the world not as it is but as it should be. Over time, she began to diminish the emphasis on individuality in her subjects, perceiving them as components of a singular entity.

Currently, the only distinguishing features among these figures are their attire, scale—such as the smaller stature of the little girl compared to others—and occasionally, gender, particularly when depicting romantic relationships. She posits that the world encapsulated within her work might exclude individual experience portraying it instead as an idealized realm of flawless, seamless connectivity. In this envisioned space, the notion of internal conflict or tension within individuals seems incongruous.

The history of art is full of recurring faces. Beeman’s work recalls the soft, elongated features and intense gaze of the woman who haunted Sandro Botticelli’s paintings. Like Petrarch’s Laure or Dante’s Beatrice, this enigmatic woman, who utterly captivated the painter, embodies the feminine ideal. Yet there are also echoes of Amedeo Modigliani’s angelic faces with their vacant, soul-searching eyes, as well as the pre-Raphaelite paintings of Rossetti and Burne-Jones.

View of Kelly Beeman's exhibition 'Distant Cities' at Perrotin Matignon, Paris, 2024. Photo: Tanguy Beurdeley. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin

The exhibition is titled Distant Cities. Many works contain architectural elements that serve as reassuring and threatening settings for Beeman’s figures. The city is presented as a metaphor for a future that may not necessarily be bright and from which we try to escape despite the apparent calmness of the scenes. Our relationship with this future becomes more than ambivalent, at times frightening, at times exciting.

A smaller figure symbolizes the movement back and forth in time. The artist says, "She’s a younger version of the ’others.' Sometimes, they seem to protect her. Elsewhere, she appears to be running away, and they try to dissuade her... I often think about time, experience, and that strange feeling of discontinuity that we sometimes have in life, especially during experiences of trauma and loss. Some of the paintings in this exhibition are more memory than fiction, but the line is quite blurred".

Beeman’s work is defined by its clear lines, which are highly graphic and meticulously arranged. Everything in her universe is in its place; even the flight of birds in the sky seems to follow a precise, preordained path. However, one feels that even a minor disruption could create chaos in this well-oiled machine, creating a sense of both solidity and fragility.

The paintings have the delicacy of painted silk and the smoothness of marble inlays. Yet they exude a certain coldness, keeping us at arm’s length. There’s something old-fashioned about them, as though they had been painted in a bygone era—as if a major catastrophe had reshuffled the cards, turning the works into signals from another world. As the artist aptly says, "Sometimes they wish time would stand still."


Born in 1983 in Oklahoma City, OK, USA
Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY, USA

Kelly Beeman has garnered recognition for her distinctive oeuvre characterized by a fusion of visual storytelling and fashion aesthetics. Despite never formally studying art, Beeman embarked on her artistic journey at a young age, sketching and painting scenes that initially served as imaginative play with her siblings. Her upbringing in Oklahoma City instilled in her a profound longing for exploration and adventure, eventually leading her to relocate to New York in 2004. During this period, her practice was marked by spontaneity and emotional catharsis, reflected in her loose and expressive style. Following her completion of a sociology degree at Hunter College, Beeman embarked on a transformative period of living abroad, notably in Bolivia and Argentina. This geographical detachment from her homeland precipitated a significant shift in her creative approach, propelling her towards figurative compositions that recounted personal narratives, from her memories of New York to her formative years. Her artistic evolution also witnessed a distinct emphasis on the portrayal of character and mood through elaborate and often carefully crafted clothing designs, attracting attention from the fashion industry and establishing her as an illustrator of note.

Her compositions often feature attire predominantly of Beeman’s own conception or adapted from vintage styles, which, while continuing to serve as a vehicle for character delineation, also reflect a departure from extravagant designer fashion. Beyond clothing, her works increasingly bring into focus the dynamics between figures and their immediate physical surroundings, offering a nuanced exploration of interpersonal relationships and environmental context. Beeman's creative process is outlined by meticulous planning and refinement, resulting in visually captivating and harmonious subject matters that elicit both pleasure and suspicion, as they convey idealized, static depictions of youth and beauty, akin to the seductive nymphs and sirens depicted in Pre-Raphaelite paintings, seemingly immune to the imperfections and discomforts of reality.

More about the artist
List of artworks