Perrotin Shanghai is proud to present a solo exhibition of works by renowned French artist Laurent Grasso. As a contemporary artist who plays a significant role in the international art scene, Laurent Grasso’s practice includes videos, paintings, sculptures and public installations. His art is concerned with heterogeneous temporalities, geographies and paranormal phenomena, by materializing what lies behind common perception, it spurs a new perspective on history and reality.
I designed the project around my interest in the theories about the sun. Solar Wind, shown on a LED screen, and in large projection in the gallery, is an object that shines on the other works. Thus, the project relates solar rays emitted through the video onto the bronze flowers and the herbarium, as if they were exposed to these rays.
The exhibition pivots around Solar Wind, a work that explores concepts of science, belief, illusion, and fiction, based on Laurent Grasso’s interest in solar storms and space meteorology. Grasso worked closely with the CNES (France National Centre for Space Studies), which collects data on solar activities from various laboratories and helped the artist identify those he needed to devise an algorithm accurate enough to transform the data into changing colors. Solar Wind hints at unknown powers beyond human control, following the path of solar activity in real time, light waves drifting and lingering around the gallery space, while hundreds of millions of light years away, modern fears that are inseparable from human destiny are intensifying.
Solar Wind is a kind of space weather report whose light fluctuations are projected onto the walls of two concrete silos. Its color variations bring to mind cosmic phenomena akin to northern lights, it is the mysterious materialization of the solar electromagnetic radiations entering the atmosphere that this device seems able to capture.
Pursuing a reflection on time and traveling through time, the series entitled Future Herbarium, executed in the manner of 19th century herbariums, records imaginary mutations of a post-disaster herbarium.
Double-hearted mutated flowers in white bronze, mounted on long stems, fill the gallery space, plunging the spectator into a strange forest. Imagined during the making of his recent film installation ARTIFICIALIS, presented in the central nave at the Musée d'Orsay, they recall the special effects of flowers that appear superimposed on certain shots in the film.
For many years, the work of Laurent Grasso has revolved around questions of time, reminiscences and subtle resonances. He endeavors to collect and identify the signs which function as lingering icons in our collective imagination, playing with the techniques and forms to create, if not a trouble, a series of questions for the spectator; a feeling of incongruity or a moment of hesitation.
A light sculpture in onyx evokes the simplified silhouette of Minerva’s helmet. It is part of a series of sculptures initiated for a commission at the Institut de France (the headquarters of the five Académies des Beaux-Arts in Paris), in which historical symbols are revived and readdressed. This ancient symbol, a well-known attribute of the goddess of wisdom, carved in greyish-white onyx and backlit, refers to the notion of the magnetism of matter.
The artist repurposed techniques used in neon fabrication to create spherical glass bulbs filled with reddish 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.
STUDIES INTO THE PAST
The exhibition will also focus on the latest works in the series Studies into the Past which has been explored by Laurent Grasso since 2009. The corpus insists on the fundamental medium of painting, whose style and execution are inspired by such Italian and Flemish painters of the 15th and 16th centuries as Andrea Mantegna and Hans Memling. However, the mythological and religious narrative elements characteristic of the period have been replaced by celestial phenomena rarely illustrated before the 19th century — eclipses, auroras borealis, meteorites — and borrowed from his own films. This insertion of these fragments into paintings from the past breaks the chapters in the history of painting. Laurent Grasso seems to be attempting to manipulate their historicity, to modify their relationship to time, thus creating what he calls a “false historical memory".
This triptych, executed in the manner of the Jesuit painter Castiglione, who spent part of his career at the imperial court of China in the eighteenth century, is part of the series entitled Studies into the Past. Alongside a portrait of Emperor Qianlong on horseback, the painting also depicts an eclipse of the sun, a phenomenon rarely depicted in the history of painting. This motif refers to one of the artist's early films, Eclipse (2016).
ABOUT THE MUSEE D'ORSAY PROJECT
Concerned to show in his work the issues of the contemporary world, Laurent Grasso has been invited by the Musée d’Orsay to create a large-scale work in dialogue with the museum’s major exhibition The Origins of the World: The Invention of Nature in 19th Century (postponed to December/January through February, 2021 at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris). Using Darwin’s original endeavor and On the Origin of Species as a starting point, Laurent Grasso along with his studio have been engaged for several years in a process of examination on the evolution, mutation and transformation of the natural world, researching into the irremediable transformation of nature by humankind and the inseparable intertwining of the natural and cultural worlds.
Faced with the collapse of the distinction of nature/culture, and more generally of the notion of nature, Laurent Grasso proposes to examine the spaces and phenomena that materialize this overload in a post-Anthropocene era. Conceived in response to the exhibition-event The Origins of the World: The Invention of Nature in 19th Century at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, for which he has been invited to create a new film, Laurent Grasso’s work reflects on the notion of exploration, and attempts to reconsider our uncertain contemporary era through the prism of the 19th century, where beliefs and science intertwined, and where Darwin’s theories emerged.
Returning to the starting point of Darwin’s The Origin of Species, after the expedition of the HMS Beagle, it brings into play the notion of exploration, in a world that we thought we knew in its entirety, but which increasingly escapes us. Using image transformation techniques as well as the resources of geoengineering, it invites us to inhabit a world where rewilding intersects with the intermingling of eras, where millennia-old bacteria emerge from the melting ice.
Born in 1972 in Mulhouse, France
Lives and works between Paris, France and New York, New York, USA
His work addresses different scales and temporalities across multiple media. He has questioned the structure of the museum (PARAMUSEUM Palais Fesch, Musée des Beaux-Arts d'Ajaccio), the history of art, as well as themes of nature and culture (notably with The Black Box, Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC; Uraniborg, Jeu de Paume, 2012, and Musée d'Art Contemporain, Montreal; Soleil Noir, Fondation Hermès, Tokyo; OttO, Biennale of Sydney, 2018, and Perrotin Paris, 2019, as well as notions of science and technology (starting with Gakona, Palais de Tokyo, 2009). He was awarded the Prix Marcel-Duchamp (2008) and was a resident of the Villa Medici in Rome (2004-2005). In parallel, Laurent Grasso has been invited to create installations in public spaces, such as Solar Wind (2016), a permanent work on the outskirts of the 13th arrondissement in Paris, placed on the walls of the Calcia silos.