Walking into Galerie Max Hetzler in Paris, one is presented with a particularly intriguing scene, more akin to the interiors of a luxe fashion shop than a gallery: walls are covered with minimal, cool paintings depicting various designer goods and signifiers of upper class recreation and lifestyle, while a series of mannequins snake throughout the gallery, bearing aloof facial expressions and clothed in handmade fashions. The show, fittingly titled The Fashion Show, is a presentation of new work by the artist Raphaela Simon, a coy commentary on consumer goods made for the center of the fashion world, Paris.
The Fashion Show presents a recent body of work that testifies to the development of the artist’s visual vocabulary. Simon shifts towards a simplified and almost analytical figuration, her canvases aspiring to summarize their subjects rather than describe them in a realistic way. The result are works that present as relatively simple and minimal, applying, over monochrome backgrounds, synthesized motifs of familiar objects. Like key words, or icons, provided by the artist for us to decode each canvas, the elementary work titles such as, Pantolette (mule) or Dicker Schuh (big shoe), keep the viewer at a distance, totemic in their signification and noncommittal nature.
Alongside these large canvases, coexist the life-sized fabric figures of thin fashion show models and their dressers, actively bustling about as if in the midst of a major show. These meticulously staged, colorful sculptures, develop their own narratives and dialogue with the artist’s works on canvas. Their faces and reactions imply a certain detachment, yet the work’s clear aversion to appearing as if the clothes came direct from haute couture make for a striking dissonance. The work emphasizes its distance from its subject, while simultaneously leaving little else to observe.
The result is a closed network of images, pushing the viewer to understand the taught relation between image and body within the world of fashion. Bodies here are presented as adornments for the “symbols” presented on the walls, surfaces on which the ideology of the product is now free to work. Simon makes for a fascinating operation here, underscoring how a field like fashion can become a closed network of references. On view in an art gallery, the irony is not lost on the viewer.
– D. Creahan
Raphaela Simon at Max Hetzler [Exhibition Site]