Justin Morin — Poison
Past: September 7 → October 12, 2013
Poison and Opium
Justin Morin’s work lies at the borders of two different worlds. On the one hand is the world of art into which he frequently dips for inspiration, in particular looking back at the art of the Sixties. The form of expression used in his polished steel bars, silky colour gradients and kinetic sculptures is reminiscent of New York minimalism, the Californian Light and Space movement and Op art. On the other hand lies the world of fashion, fashion as an industry, which far from being limited to the universe of the catwalk, also deals with the design and production of clothing, accessories and cosmetics, as well as creating an imagery around its products, in other words marketing them. The exhibition highlights this awareness of the world of fashion on many different levels, the most obvious being the pair of shoes that their owner seems to have left behind on the floor of the gallery. They evoke the current fashion for jewelled shoes: shoes that are increasingly beautiful, sculptural, strange and luxurious and less and less wearable it has to be said (here the soles are made out of concrete). What is particularly interesting in this double positioning is less the fact of being part of a niche that has been exploited to the full for the last 15 years (the artist caught between art and fashion) than what this position allows Justin Morin to say about each of the two worlds. The worlds of art and fashion, that when all’s said and done are not so close as some might think, could be described as two industries producing objects of beauty and Justin Morin reveals some of the principles that underlie their workings. The term industry implies a means of production as well as the implementation of marketing strategies, such as the rapid renewal of the offer (fast fashion), the creation of more and more specialised niches to identify products and trends created from nothing. As well as being a repertoire of forms that may be borrowed to good effect, kinetic art also allows Justin Morin to highlight those sudden and all-powerful fads that sweep through both the worlds of art and fashion. At the start of kinetic art, there was a widespread craze for this new art form. The term Bridget mania was coined (after Bridget Riley and in reference to Beatlemania) and kinetic art was almost immediately overexploited, used in many and varied forms (textiles, TV set decors, film credits and motifs of every imaginable sort) to such a extent that Riley herself went to court to stop the commercial exploitation of her work. It then came to be considered dated and was sent to the art history purgatory during three whole decades, simply because it was so widely present throughout the Sixties and the Seventies. Vasarely for example still makes people cringe. At the moment, it is the object of a new wave of enthusiasm amongst specialists, collectors and the general public, the extent of which could be gauged at the recent Parisian exhibitions on Julio Le Parc and Perceptual art.
Justin Morin also takes an interest in how advertising creates value, a process that is fundamentally based on the production of photographic images (and more recently of short films). The source images for the silky colour gradients in his series How to drape are mainly drawn from the iconography of advertising on which television, cinema, the press and Internet all thrive and in which luxury, celebrity and fashion come together in a cocktail with the same imperative: seduction. What Justin Morin finds most interesting however is that most special moment when the imperative metamorphoses objects and bodies into images, a photographic alchemy which lies at the heart of the mechanics of advertising. The poison in the exhibition’s title could be understood as a criticism of the workings of this society of the spectacle, or at least as evoking the artist’s doubts as he observes a system that has become almost toxic as it tries to outdo itself turning images into a poison.
In our opinion however, it is more a reference to Christian Dior’s perfume Poison that was so popular in the 80s. It is also an indication of the artist’s continued quest to understand the nature of beauty, a questioning that is made clear in his series How to drape, but which underlies his entire body of work. How can one manage to create a beautiful drape, a beautiful bouquet, a beautiful sculpture, a beautiful exhibition? He already suggested one possible answer with La Ligne d’Hogarth (Hogarth’s line) that referred, by means of a bouquet, to one of the principles of composition as defended by the English artist in The Analysis of Beauty.
With Poison, Justin Morin is seeking the principles of beauty elsewhere, in the sensuality of oriental fragrances to be exact. The exhibition could just as easily have been called Opium because it immerses us in a concept of beauty dear to Baudelaire, torn between modernity and classicism, composed of benzoin, incense and venomous flowers, but also shop windows, goods, large cities and cosmetics. Baudelaire’s vision of beauty is laid out for all to see, but it is not clear whether the artist really adheres to the concept. In spite of these lingering doubts about the possibility of a form of beauty that could speak to everybody, and even of the very existence of a valid answer to the questions which float over this entire body of work like so many silken veils, one desire remains: that a work of art, whatever it may be, no longer offers itself to the spectator as an image does, but like a perfume. That it does not try to seduce the spectator at first sight, but remains constantly present in the mind’s eye now and ever after, like the memory of a heady musky scent that persists long after its wearer has gone.
Opening Saturday, September 7, 2013 4 PM → 9 PM