May 4 2009 2 04 /05 /May /2009 11:21
No need to be a die-hard biker to know that. You only have to open your eyes and trust the famous “collective unconscious” (the “personal unconscious” is still hard to find…). Sit astride a Triumph 6T 1950 Thunderbird (Brando’s one on The Wild One) or a more commonly old Harley-Davidson, and take the road with a Suzuki Hayabusa GSX 1300R, a more sportive model, do not refer to the same imagery or feelings. It’s exactly the same concerning the simultaneous exhibitions of Oliver Millagou and Aaron Young.
Well, both artists use motorcycle and its decadent environment to reinterpret, on their own way, codes and blazed signs of this “popular culture” (an other commonplace: low/high culture: what’s popular to know the characteristics of the 45 degree V-Twin engine of Harley?... or the high culture of Picasso and the Masters exhibition?). To be honest, and to sum up (so, you don’t have to read entirely this article), the difference between the French Millagou and the American Young is the same between the translation of the title of Jack Cardiff’s movie on 1967: Naked under leather became… The motorcycle. Nothing to add.
More precisely, let’s say that Millagou seats down on the sidecar. A little bit passive, looking at the landscape. The exhibition Chapter 2 19 M.C. at Baumet Sultana Gallery, Paris, until May 14, 2009 plays the total look, from the burned door to orange walls. When you play too much with clichés, you fall into. Don’t be ambiguous: Millagou is a good (and still young) French artist, his Draw Pins, his carved and worked woods (Disco Rising), his subtle postcards, make a relevant and serious work, unusual and mastered. The fact remains that his last exhibition is not good. Painted vests (Road Painting) are clearly light (even on Spring), too much signs kill signs. The One Percent Paintings, embezzled materials (enamel and scotch tape) and bodily sculpted writings are almost successful even if Millagou, one more time, does not go into his concept in depth and stops too early, once he reached the aesthetical road. It’s the same for the slides… Millagou seems to have chosen to take the road, the wild one, without tanking up… Does he try the old fake “car’s broken down” routine?
It does not imply that the exhibition Introducing Aaron Young at Almine Rech Gallery, until May 20, works fine. Indeed, the smashed and 24-carat gold covered metallic fences, or the optical illusion stuff painting of the Christ, are totally dispensable: the first ones for their insufficiency (we’ll speak one day about the poor/noble materials changing and understand that it’s no more useful now…), the second one for its… insufficiency (the Internet joke style is not equivalent to painting as illusion). On the contrary, the Punchlines, the beautiful tag on the mirror, erased and efficient (Young perfectly uses the scriptural quotations), are two examples of the strength of the work of Aaron Young, mixing soberness and roaring power. Roaring are his two paintings, masterpieces of the exhibition, extracted from his last motorized Whitney Biennale performance (even if he already tried it). Young asked motorcycles to turn, making “burns” on beforehand paint priming wood panels discovered by tires burning. That’s true, playing to be Pollock is not really innovative but the result is, this time, convincing. Firstly because the visual result is impressive, mixing pictorial effects with materials and treatments changes on the surface of the “canvases”, the composition melts down steel, rubber and acrylic paint. Secondly and precisely because it cleverly questions the status of the work of art. What remains to sell? Are the paintings turning into specific works, acquiring a new dimension by their split or do they stay performance residues, near of conceptual art trophies? The segmentation post operated defines the artist intervention, his final gesture fracturing and annihilating the uniqueness of the piece. Between abstract expressionism, trace minimalism, concept and performance, Aaron Young elegantly redefines the way you look on artworks and joyfully breaks rules and frontiers… like a real biker, right?
So, if you choose the freeways (in a jam) of American Wild West, chocked behind Millagou or if you play outlaws (tuning version) side by side with Young, don’t forget to put a helmet on. Art is a dangerous time-killer for fragile heads…
[Picture : above, Olivier Millagou, One Percent Painting, 2009. Laque de moto sur gaffeur. 190 x 130 cm. Courtesy Olivier Millagou & galerie Baumet Sultana, Paris. Below : Aaron Young, Greeting Card 10a, 2007. Stained plywood, acrylic, burnt rubber. Courtesy : Aaron Young & galerie Baumet Sultana, Paris]