These 10 artists represent an extremely promising generation of diverse, creative talents coming out of France today. Working across a number of mediums, their varied work often shares a focus on the fissures and gaps between object and meaning, between fact and fiction, drawing upon other fields like science, history, or archaeology to make us re-examine our habitual perceptions.
JR, “The Wrinkles of the City, Los Angeles, Robert’s Eye” Paris, 2011 | Courtesy of Galerie Perrotin
A Parisian native of Algerian descent, Neïl Beloufa plays upon our sense of narrative reliability in his videos and installations. Often using the interview format to create video works that mix fact and fiction with unsettling results, he challenges the authority of the narrator and questions the reality presented by the media and our reliance on those presentations. Similarly, the objects found in his installations hover somewhere in between their useful function and their potential to signify. As the artist himself states, ‘I like the idea of having an object or sculpture whose status is unstable, shifting.’ Beloufa’s work was displayed in Kiev as one of the finalists of the 2014 Next Generation Art Prize.
Aurélien Froment, Fröbel Fröbeled, 2013, exhibition view, Villa Arson, Nice © Jean Brasille 2014
With an educational background in art history from the École du Louvre, artist Isabelle Cornaro is interested in how cultural and historical influences condition the way we see. Working across a number of mediums – painting, sculpture, installation, film – her compositions seek to point out and play with ‘the slightly pornographic relationship to objects, half-sentimental, half-lecherous’ that people tend to have (especially in places like flea markets), shifting the context or the material make-up of the objects in order to challenge our usual perceptions. Cornaro won the prestigious Prix Ricard in 2010 and has had a large number of solo exhibitions in France and internationally, including a show at Spike Island in Bristol.
Taking a methodically inquisitive approach, Dublin-based French artist Aurélien Froment questions the space between words and images, or how ‘ideas, ideals or models become something else in their practical use and in posterity.’ Bringing together historical narratives with the participatory potential of the exhibition-goer, Froment employs a broad range of mediums, including sculpture, photography, film and installation, in order to bring attention to cultural constructs while at the same time playfully coaxing new imaginative possibilities from an encounter with the artwork. Born in 1976 in Anger, Froment has exhibited widely in both solo and group shows, including last year’s Venice Biennale and a recent solo production based on the German educator and founder of the original kindergarten, Friedrich Fröbel.
“I”, Centre Pompidou (2013) | © Stephanie Carwin
Born in 1980, Parisian native Cyprien Gaillard has already racked up some prestigious art awards, from the 2010 Marcel Duchamp Prize, the major art award for young artists in France and the 2011 National Gallery Prize for Young Art given in Berlin, where the artist is now based. His multiform work – using found objects, sculpture, photography and film – brings together the vestiges of ancient civilizations and the myths that surround them with the geopolitical realities and everyday banalities of contemporary life, bringing a critical and questioning gaze to our relationship to the past and how we utilize it to sustain our image of the present.
At the age of 35, French artist Loris Gréaud had already taken over all 40,000 sq. ft. of the Palais de Tokyo for a solo exhibition and simultaneously exhibited works at both the Louvre and the Centre Pompidou a few years ago. Considered a conceptual artist, he often works in collaboration with musicians, architects, composers or designers to create protean universes that take the audience on an unforeseen journey. As the artist explains, ‘I like creating beautiful stories that connect to make something vast, going beyond the public’s understanding or even mine.’ Gréaud’s work can be seen currently in the Prima Materia exhibition at the Punta della Dogana in Venice.
Born in 1978, Camille Henrot won the Silver Lion for most promising younger artist at the 2013 edition of the Venice Biennale for her video Grosse Fatigue, a film that ambitiously sought to construct a story of the universe’s creation based on extensive research she undertook at the Smithsonian during a fellowship. Making associative connections between art, science, anthropology and religion, her works – installations as well as video – investigate the universalizing myths that we utilize to explain the world around us and the objects through which we project our personal desires.
Parisian artist JR is known only by his initials, not only to guard his anonymity in light of his mostly unsanctioned photo-tagging projects on the world’s streets, but also in order to keep the focus squarely on his subjects. Going into some of the most difficult, conflict-ridden spots on the planet – a favela in Rio, an African shanty town, even the border area between Israel and Palestine – he focuses his camera on the community, often working with them to create colossal portraits that highlight the human face – humor-filled, vulnerable, resilient – of those living on the margins. Born in 1983, the artist was awarded the TED Prize in 2011, a $1 million award given to an individual ‘with a creative, bold vision to spark global change.’
Emilie Pitoiset, “You will see the cat before you leave” installation view at The Yvonne Rainert Project, Noisiel (2014) | Émile Ouroumov, Courtesy of the artist and Klemm’s, Berlin
Grenoble-born artist Julien Prévieux was the 2015 winner of the French Duchamp Prize, awarded for his work ‘What Shall We Do Next’, a video and choreography project in which he worked with dancers and actors and hand gestures patented by several high-tech companies, revealing the sometimes absurd complexities of our increasingly technology-dominated world. In another notable absurdist-inflected project, Lettres de non motivation (a play on the ‘lettre de motivation’ – or cover letter – that accompanies job applications), the artist responded to job ads with the reasons why he was not interested in the position – what the artist terms ‘counter-productivity’ as a kind of resistance.
Working in the subjective spaces between gestures and objects, Paris-based artist Émilie Pitoiset explores perceptions and the creative act across a wide range of mediums, including sculpture, installation, performance and film. Her work seeks to highlight narrative instability through re-enactments, rituals and fictional characters, looking for the meanings that develop in the invisible gaps between acts. Recipient of the Audi Talent Award in 2010 and nominated for the Prix Ricard in 2012, Pitoiset’s work has been presented in solo and group exhibitions throughout Europe, including the group show Lives of Performers, curated by Chantal Pontbriand, at La Ferme du Buisson.
One of the finalists for the Duchamp Prize, Evariste Richer’s artistic practice finds its source in the world of science, drawing from fields such as geology and astronomy. The artist focuses both on the staging of natural phenomena in ways that bring a conceptual gaze to their material make-up, as well as investigating man’s incessant need to measure himself against the world around him – curator Florence Ostende describes Richer’s work as a ‘fertile crossover between a Renaissance wunderkammer and the mental mechanics of conceptual art.’ A graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts of Grenoble, Richer has exhibited widely around Europe, and can be seen next in the upcoming exhibition Narratives of Absence in Bordeaux.
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