David Kordansky Gallery is pleased to announce its participation in Frieze New York with a solo presentation by Mai-Thu Perret. Continuing a body of work currently on view in a solo exhibition at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Perret brings together new sculptural figures, paintings on carpets, and a neon work, which together highlight her open-ended approach to utilitarian materials and an artistic and ethical avant-garde.
Perret has long been interested in speculative feminist utopias, and the new sculptures borrow their titles, Les guérillères, from a 1969 battle-of-the-sexes novel by the French theorist and writer Monique Wittig. Perret’s figures, inspired by soldiers in the YPJ, a female-only Kurdish militia currently fighting in the Syrian civil war, also nod to the presence of what could be construed as a real-world dystopia, one in which brutal conditions have forced women to band together to combat the violence that threatens their communities and their lives.
Each sculpture is constructed from a collage of materials the artist has used to produce figurative works in the past, including bodies of glazed ceramic, wicker, silicone, and papier-mâché, weapons cast in resin, and found clothing. Their intentional resemblance to store mannequins, as well as the disjunctions that exist between their various elements, recall the uncanny formal ruptures favored by Dadaist and Surrealist artists in the wake of the societal traumas occasioned by World War I. At the same time they possess an almost neo-classical sense of balance and symmetry; Perret has chosen to depict the soldiers in repose, during in-between moments of contemplation, boredom, and anxiety that represent a less obvious part of the experience of war.
The brooding psychological intensity that animates the sculptures finds a surprising parallel in Perret's ongoing series of carpet paintings, new examples of which provide a crucial counterpoint in both the Nasher exhibition and the presentation at Frieze New York. With their Rorschach-like imagery––the paint is applied to a carpet support, which is then folded along a central axis––and unabashed abstraction, they only serve to heighten the interiority and psychological absorption that characterize the figurative works. And yet seeing both typologies together affirms that, like the figures, the carpet paintings also have a distinct bodily presence. The carpet support itself, for instance, is imbued with softness and variation, a decided contrast to the relatively hard uniformity of a stretched canvas. In the newest carpet paintings, Perret experiments with a broad array of compositional strategies, employing monumentality or stark contrast in some cases while welcoming a more elaborate complexity and subtle gradation in others.
The neon work on view, meanwhile, is a large-scale geometric abstraction whose luminosity reminds us that the perception of idealized forms (perfect circles and straight lines) is dependent upon the organic physiology of the eye and neurological systems. Perret often borrows the compositions for her neon pieces from paintings and drawings by lesser-known modern figures like Hilma af Klint and Emma Kunz, female artists who until very recently were excluded from mainstream art historical discourse, and whose visionary, spiritually oriented imagery posits an alternate history of abstraction. She thereby reveals the porosity of cultural narratives that attempt to overlay a strict, overarching chronology on the development of visual forms, and locates aesthetic activity in an embodied zone where it co-exists with other logically inexplicable expressions of human nature like tenderness, mysticism, and war.
Mai-Thu Perret (b. 1976, Geneva) is the subject of a solo exhibition at the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas, through July 17, 2016. Other solo exhibitions include shows at Le Magasin, Grenoble, France (2012); Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, Switzerland (2011); Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich (2011); the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor (2010); the Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, Colorado (2009); and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2008). Recent group exhibitions include NO MAN'S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection, Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2015); CERAMIX, Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, Netherlands (2015); INSERT2014, Indira Ganghi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi, India (2014); Decorum, Musée D'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2014); and Pattern: Follow the Rules, Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan (2013). Perret lives and works in Geneva.