Entering the Paris location of Galerie Perrotin, the viewer is greeted with a series of dazzling sculptures, jagged agglomerations of shining blocks that appear to glow with a colorful energy, spreading across the floor of one room, while in another, dotting the walls, each appearing to emit a gentle, flame-like glow. The works, new pieces by the artist Jean-Michel Othoniel, are a striking elaboration of the artist’s work, continuing his exploration of space and light as innately tied to their generating materials.
The current show, which brings together fifteen minimalist, enigmatic sculptures made of glass or metal bricks, see the artist artist in a mode that hearkens back 10 years to prior travels in India. On the road from Delhi to Firozabad, a city with an age-old glassmaking tradition, Othoniel was captivated by stacks of bricks accumulated in the hope of building a house, and by the countless altars covered in offerings and brightly colored necklaces. The experience was formative in his works since, employing veteran Indian glassblowers to blow a range of shapes and forms that he has utilized in his pieces. Here, the artist has commissioned massive of blue, amber, yellow and grey glass bricks blown by master craftsmen.
These elements, applied in a modular format akin to the glass beads that he has utilized since 1993, see the artist continuing his work in a space between conceptual practice, sculpture, and architecture, enabling a new monumentality that allows him to both reflect on the singular elements and their accumulated mass. These bricks are described as a universal element, a common denominator between cultures and one that has traversed the history of humanity. Feeding his latest research and generating material, the form takes on a raw element that equally carries a deep cultural resonance, echoing between spaces and histories that also enables Othoniel to reach the architectural scale he was aiming for and to try out cantilevered constructions, to go beyond the idea of sculpture, to invent a new relation to space, and to rethink the embedding of the object in a landscape. For Othoniel, this engagement with space and with the history of architecture, created anew from a far more delicate, elegant material, seems to invite a more delicate engagement with the world at large.
If his prior glass-bead sculptures and drawings are engaged in a dialogue with brick works, Othoniel has here chosen to concentrate exclusively on this new serial element in glass or stainless steel through abstract, monochrome propositions close to the language of minimalist art. Works like Blue River (2019), which spreads out across the floor of the space, carries a certain mythical charge that references a more direct engagement with the forces of nature, in stark contrast with his investigations of architectural form and man’s relationship to the world. Rather than a charged sense of creating the man-made world anew, over and over, Othoniel seems to explore both sides of the coin as equal parts, man’s fascination with the natural world as he observes it from under the safety of a hand-made roof.
The artist’s work is on view through June 18th.
— C. Rhinehart
Jean-Michel Othoniel [Galerie Perrotin]