AO On Site – Paris: ‘Fresh Hell’ at the Palais de Tokyo through January 16th, 2011 featuring Maurizio Cattelan, Martin Creed, Isa Genzken, Dan Graham, Philip Guston, Martin Kippenberger, Nate Lowman, Sarah Lucas, Bruce Nauman & Frank Owen, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Rob Pruitt, Agathe Snow, Rudolf Stingel, Rosemarie Trockel and others

January 13th, 2011

Installation image, all photos by Caroline Claisse for Art Observed unless otherwise noted

Currently on view at the Palais de Toyko is Fresh Hell, a group exhibition curated by British-born New York-based artist Adam McEwen.  Shedding a bit of dark humor on the city of Paris, McEwen brings together medieval sculpture and conceptual work from artists long forgotten as well as contemporary artists, pondering just what sort of position and creative endeavors an artist can make in today’s world. The works deal with morbidity, decay, and notions of ‘the end,’ making Death the principle theme.

More text and images after the jump…

Michael Landy, The Market (2010)

McEwan’s exhibition presents the viewer with artistic “Hell” from the past and the present. Michael Landy’s The Market, which was first seen during the young British art boom in the 1990s, is now re-erected; once busy and full of life, now bare with neither potential clients nor enthusiastic sellers. Films of Domenico de Dominicis reveal the artist repeatedly failing to bring himself to an early death. McEwan includes works by the late Martin Kippenberger, an excessive alcoholic. Cuban performance artist Ana Mendieta lies on top of a skeleton; the wife of sculptor Carl Andre, she died under mysterious circumstances, falling from the window of her apartment.

Installation view, via Contemporary Art Daily

Reinhard Mucha, Norddeich Mole (1988)

Above a small rushed drawing of the earth’s continents by Jessica Diamond, the artist has written in big black words, “Is That All There Is?” Reinhard Mucha’s dark cabinets are displayed in another room while David Hammon’s ripped hood from a sweatshirt hangs high on the wall as if to pay reverence to the previous wearer; both works signal a seemingly previous tendency towards high-esteem and wealth but are now empty and sad.

Installation view, via Contemporary Art Daily

In another room, a photograph of Sarah Lucas smoking is displayed close by one of Henri Michaux’s 1960s mescalin drawings and Dan Grahman’s chart of drugs and their side-effects, as if to comment on art’s after-effects. All of a sudden one stumbles upon an anonymous 15th-century sculpture of Saint Florian with carved water flowing out of his wooden bucket; an incredibly lively an uplifting site amidst the other more solemn artworks as if to say, “there is hope.”

Sarah Lucas, Is Suicide Genetic? (1996)

McEwan creates a labyrinth of art works which freshly tells the tale of the dark side of life and of art. The curator’s use of art-historical and contemporary references takes the viewer on a ride through the production of art and its many melancholic—yet beautiful—lows.

Maurizio Cattelan, - 74.400.000.000 (1996)

Philip Guston, Untitled (1968). and Tower (1968)

Martin Creed, Work no.925 (2008)

Jonathan Borofsky, Object of Magic (1984) (background)

Matias Faldbakken, Untitled (Video Sculpture) (2005)

H. C. Westermann, The Connecticut Ballroom Suite (1975-76)

-R.A. Proctor

Related Links:
Exhibition page [Palais de Tokyo]
Fresh Hell – it’s damned good [The Guardian]
Review: Fresh Hell at the Palais de Tokyo [Aesthetic Magazine]
Fresh Hell [Art in America]
Adam McEwen at the Palais de Tokyo [British Council]
Adam McEwen Brings a Fresh Kind of Hell to Paris [Artinfo]