B.C. Binning and Alvin Balkind Galleries
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents the first solo exhibition by French artist Guillaume Leblon in a Canadian museum. Leblon’s practice is characterized both by its diversity and the artist’s shrewd manipulation of space. While he creates powerful, discrete objects, films and paintings, the presentation in Vancouver choreographs his works into a larger spatial narrative within the gallery venue exuding a potent sense of ephemerality and the uncanny.
Creating fictional landscapes or altering an existing space has long been Leblon’s favoured technique for fueling uncertainty and doubt in order to undermine the stark purity and perfect finish of the museum. At CAG, Leblon transforms our gallery rooms with a major intervention. Plywood alterations to the floors and walls modify our perception of the space not only physically but also through the changes in acoustics, and so, by means of such a gesture of immediate and deft simplicity, we engage in a shared make-believe and the experience of a space redefined. Our awareness of the space is further shifted by a shelf that runs around the gallery wall perimeter, its changing height creating an odd disorientation disturbing our sense of sureness.
Interspersed among these new floor surfaces and along the sloping shelf is a selection of new and recent works which characteristically create a poetic universe, a world of its own, extending Leblon’s ongoing propositions with a more tangible figurative presence. We are transported into a different realm, embracing an active, mobile, open relationship with the world. Questions arise concerning established associations – historically, culturally and socially constructed – between the exceptional and the normal, the manufactured and the existent, the personal and impersonal, the ephemeral and the permanent, the old and the new, the dead and the alive. The gallery becomes a landscape, a site somewhere between what is almost known and barely known.
This atmosphere or narrative impulse is created in other ways too. Incorporating familiar objects into his sculptures, from tables and shelves to industrial materials and processes such as plywood and casting, Leblon presents enigmatic constructions and subtly affected combinations which have a powerful, seductive, material presence. While his works refuse a single reading, Leblon having a non-hierarchical approach to his materials, they often conjure images of the ruin and the passage of time, the notion of the vanitas bringing the present and the past into contact. Leblon transforms everyday components into sculptures that attain a relic-like quality or the aura of a classical statue.
For this new exhibition Leblon brings together a group of works that evoke the suggestive potential of the body through the material and image of the resolved pieces themselves. A blank face without features, detached arms without hands, a clothed torso; each of these new evocative sculptures comprises a sort of shell or envelope for an absent body, a hollow core that speaks to questions of memory, dreams, fragmentation and possibility. This body of work also marks a transition in process and materials for Leblon. Over the years, the artist has shifted from working with found materials, remnants and organic matter to foundry work in materials like aluminum, marble and sand. Always invested in temporal concerns, Leblon sees this mutation in process as a transformation of the work’s relationship to time.
While absence of the body is suggested, sometimes an imprint reveals a human form with shapeless contours, where the body is sensed by the viewer, or clothing and other fragments are employed where, ironically, there may remain traces of cigar ashes or of wear. The sculptures perform like characters within some larger narrative. Likely Political Circumstances (2016) is a man’s jacket hovering phantom-like above dismembered arms as if held upright by an invisible thread, a scene of some violent action; Brother and Brother II (both 2016) both present a vessel form, also suggestive of hollowed out partial skulls, evoking a sliced through container whereby we might contemplate its former function or the potential to hold something be it matter or an idea.
This interest in transformations manifests itself in works that hint at a kind of alchemy for the artist. In these new works, Leblon uses forms that are made from hand blown glass or newer technologies, for the first time producing objects using 3D printing, the final sculptures retaining textural and visual evidence of its original humble material. Despite Leblon’s notionally post-apocalyptic world his installations and collections of sculptures teem not only with innumerable, partially perceptible thoughts, but also with movement and life.
We gratefully acknowledge the support of Institut Français and the Consulate général de France in Vancouver. The exhibition is generously supported by Jane Irwin and Ross Hill.
Guillaume Leblon was born in Lille, France and currently lives and works in New York. Selected solo exhibitions include carlier | gebauer, Berlin (2016); Panorama, Marseille (2015); MassMoCA, North Adams; Institut d’Art Contemporain (IAC) Villeurbanne; Galerie Projecte SD, Barcelona; Galerie Jocelyn Wolff, Paris (2014); Contemporary Art Museum of Sérignan, France (2012); Fondation Paul Ricard, Paris (2011); Le grand café, Centre d’art contemporain, Saint-Nazaire (2010); MUDAM, Luxembourg (2009); Centre d’art contemporain Culturgest, Porto; Centro Gallego de Arte Contemporaneo, CGAC, Santiago de Compostela (2008); Kunstverein Düsseldorf; Centre d’art contemporain – Le Crédac, Ivry-sur-Seine, France (2006), amongst many others. Leblon has participated in group exhibitions, most recently at Fondation d’entreprise Hermès, Paris and Brussels; Punta della Dogana, Venice; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Biennale de Lyon; Secession, Vienna; Bétonsalon, Paris; Gallery LABOR, Mexico City; Kunsthalle Saint-Gallen; Museum MARTa, Herford; Le Plateau, FRAC Ile de France, Paris; Fridericianum, Kassel; and CAC Vilnius. In 2011 he was nominated for the Prix Marcel Duchamp, Paris. Leblon is represented by Galerie Jocelyn Wolff, Paris; carlier | gebauer, Berlin and Galerie Projecte SD, Barcelona.