james pinson/Guillaume Paris




Galerie Nelson,Paris
13 September - 31 October 2003

 The rituals and incantations bound up in the packaging strategies of commodity capitalism have long been at the heart of Guillaume Paris'  work.  In the first room of his recent exhibition, 'Priceless', at Galerie Nelson in Paris  is 'Ivory',  a piece dating from 1989-90.  Ivory seems to be a  bar of soap in a vitrine.  It is  white, immaculate with the word ivory embossed into it.     It is in fact made from real ivory.  The evident aim of the product's  nomenclature here is to elevate soap, a basic and mundane material, to a  pure  altitude.  Paris' displacement of the soap into the context of an exhibition makes it apparent that the residue of such a nominative dialectic is a network of  insidious associations which operate at a number of levels.  However Paris claims that he is not interested in simply diabolizing the machinations of commodity culture. Rather his aim is  to reappropriate the forces that are at work in such economies of signification.  The major works in 'Priceless' seem to mark a considerable step  in consolidating this position. 
'Wolf!'  and 'Infinite Justice' dating from this year, are two such pieces. Wolf!'' is a realistically fabricated life-size wolf.  It is wrapped in transparent cellophane that has pink stars printed upon it.    This ensemble sits on a circular white dias that slowly revolves.   Although 'Wolf!'  is nominally in the same family as 'Ivory'  the procedure is quite different.  The wolf is exposed to a packing strategy that places it in relation to the wolf's allegoric and mythic potential, baying at the stars and the infinite wilderness of the sky.    'Infinite Justice', is a further development of the logic of 'Wolf!' .  A life size mannequin of a young girl is packaged in a vacuum-formed transparent  cocoon and laid upon a flat shaped surface with a painted background that evokes angels wings and a starry night.  Although this piece is a scaled-up version of a toy that Paris found, the mechanism of signification is similar to that of  'Wolf!'.  The representation of the child signals transcendence within a matrix of a related rhetoric - purity, innocence, nature, infinity or eternity.   However the anthropomorphism and animism of these two works are not the only threads in this exhibition.   A recent video work such as 'Burning Bush' introduces an old testament narrative into the exhibition,  fast-forwarded as an allusion to America, Bush and the 'born again' lobby.  Alongside 'Mixed Blessings' at Strasbourg and Noisy-le-Sec and 'H.U.M.A.N.W.O.R.L.D./ We Are the World' at the Palais de Tokyo, Priceless joins a lengthening list of impressive exhibitions and marks out Paris as one of the most significant artists presently working in France.

James Pinson