SYLVIE FLEURYSHAMESeptember 11 to October 31, 2020
Sylvie Fleury. SHAME
It seems as if it’s the first time Sylvie Fleury enters an artworkherself.Enormous blob-like inflatables based on the artist’s personalized Bitmoji dominate her recent exhibitions, as well as her upcoming solo show at Mehdi Chouakri Gallery in Berlin. Rather than an alluring slogan drawn from perfume branding, such as Obsession, Escape, Joy, Envy andEternity Now, the three-dimensional artist portrait on view in Berlin carries “SHAME” in bold logo-like typeface. All of a sudden, we are confronted with the artist’s persona—or at least we are told so. Escaping the smartphone screen, the artist’s avatar comes to life as a festival prop, while the brutality of its enlargement makes you forget the cutesy effect of Bitmoji-texting. Thinking about Fleury’s oeuvre sheds light on a contradiction. The work is full of personification. Her shopping bag readymades imply that she is obsessed with shopping, yet in hindsight we wonder whether we might have been blinded by an orchestrated camouflage. Does she really like shopping? Are we really confronted with hercollection of high heels and herFord Cosworth from 1969? In preparation for this essay, I went back to the artist’s books and catalogues in my library and while studying them, I started to understand that she never reveals herself as an image or by using her own voice. Instead, Fleury subverts the tradition of the artist portrait by using surrogates: readymades, such as high heels, cars, shopping bags and furniture, divert attention from the void that confronts us. There is no human soul at work,one could argue.
The genesis of Sylvie Fleury as an artist dates back to the early 1990’s—the heyday of postmodernism, where the role of the artist enjoyed a surprising resurrection. As critics of late capitalist society—Maurizio Lazzarato, Frederic Jameson, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, to name a few—point out, the artist takes on an avant-garde position (again), albeit instrumentalized since there is no longer a “bohemian outside”—Yes To All.1With the rise of network capital2and the growing communication industry, the immaterial labour of conceptual art was at the forefront and defined a role model for new economic standards of labor. Subjectivity took on a new significance, as Lazzaroto claims: “The new slogan of Western societies is that we should all become subjects.”3In an age of information, the notion of work underwent a radical change: production was now regarded as handling information. In 1991 Tiqqun published Premiers Matériaux pour une Théorie de la jeune fille—a theoretical analysis of generic subjectivity solely defined who by consumerism. It is a persiflage on the “lifelongstruggle of rendering oneself compatible with Empire.”4In the 2000s the concept of the avatar entered the art world with the construction of such fictional artists as Claire Fontaine, Reena Spaulings or John Dogg. Perhaps this phenomena of the Readymade Artist5offered a subversive means of playing with the oppressive mechanisms of controlling subjectivity. A fake identity can’t be subsumed by societal authorities. According to my reading Sylvie Fleury is a Readymade Artistavant-la-lettre. Her voice asserting Be Amazing6is the one of the young girl saying: I want people to be beautiful7.And now—two decades later—when the promise of the once new millennial avant-garde has long faded and the avatar’s potential has been entombed in the grave of commodification in a Bitmoji application—de-sexualized like the jeune fille—Sylvie Fleury’s inflatables are a memento mori of authentic subjectivity.
— Niels Olsen
1 Yes To Allis an expression appearing in various art works by Sylvie Fleury.
2 Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism, London 2018.
3 Maurizio Lazzarato, Immaterial Labor, in: Paolo Virno and Michael Hardt (ed.), Radical Thought in Italy, Minneapolis 1996, p. 134.
4 Tiqqun,Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl, Los Angeles 2007. (English Translation)
5 Claire Fontaine / John Kelsey, Interview,http://brocblegen.com/collection/Artists/Claire%20Fontaine/Interview%20with%20John%20Kelsey.pdf
6 Be Amazing is another expression appearing in various art works by Fleury.
7 Tiqqun,Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl, Los Angeles 2007, p. 24.
Self adhesive foil122 x 137 cm / 48 x 54 inUnlimited EditionWith her self-designed avatars—bitmojis—which are created with the app of the same name, Sylvie Fleury for the first time includes self-portraits in her works. This window sticker shows the artist with a perfume bottle and thus serves as a self-reference as well as a kind of self-promotion. Despite the obvious representation of her self, the artist uses only a projection and thus remains incognito. The "iconic" edition resembles a kind of marketing campaign that establishes a connection between the cult of the artist and ordinary window display advertising.
JOY (Metallic Light Green and Pink Florescent), 2020Acrylic on canvas100 x 100 x 4,5 cm / 39.4 x 39.4 x 1.7 inFor the work JOY (Metallic Light Green and Pink Florescent), Sylvie Fleury chose the title of a Dior perfume and realized it as a painting in acrylic on canvas. The distinctive typography of the label is brought to the fore and is presented in a striking color combination of metallic green and pink. The fleeting experience of a perfume, which always accompanies you only for a certain period of time only, is here preserved for eternity. The promise of always trying to convey the title of products of the luxury industry—in this case joy—is questioned in this work and counteracted by the supernatural exaggeration.
Marée Noire, 2020
Fiberglass, car paint, Marine Serre coat84 x 26 x 31 cm / 33 x 10 x 12 in
For her latest series of works, Sylvie Fleury combines elements of mannequins with objects from the world of fashion and everyday life. The legs, hands and arms of the female mannequins are covered with car paint, which has its origins in the American custom car scene of the 1990s and is arranged as a wall object with a special attribute.For the work Marée Noire, Fleury combines deep blue lacquered, overturned female legs with a coat by the French designer Marine Serre. The shiny black garment is thrown over the elements of the mannequin and overlays them like a black veil. The fact that it is a designer piece initially plays only a minor role. The coat's imprint—Marée Noire (oil spill)—connects the installation with the real world and leads to associations that go beyond the context of fashion.
Fiberglass, car paint, basketball24 x 26 x 24,5 cm / 9.4 x 10.2 x 9.6 inFor her latest series of works, Sylvie Fleury combines elements of mannequins with objects from the world of fashion and everyday life. The legs, hands and arms of the female displays are covered with special car paint, which has its origins in the American custom car scene of the 1990s and is arranged with a special attribute as a wall object.Dunk shows a Spalding brand basketball, created in collaboration with the well-known jewelry maker Tiffany, presented on a pair of painted hands. The sports equipment, which has been robbed of its function by upgrading it to a collector's item, is originally packaged and presents itself airless. Sylvie Fleury critically demonstrates here the limits of consumption, which produces ludicrous objects that have lost all connection to reality. At the same time, the work can also be seen as a reference to Jeff Koons and his „basketball tanks“, which can be seen as a male counterpart to Fleury's variation.
Lazy Sunday, 2019
Print on silk velvetDimensions variableFor the fabric installation Lazy Sunday, Sylvie Fleury also uses her digitally created alter ego, which here is printed on a silk velvet. The fabric, which can be attached to a wall in various lengths, acquires a sculptural and haptic quality through the way it is presented. The applied repetitive print motif shows the artist relaxing and is a further sign of her humorous approach to the artist and her everyday life.
Muddy Haim, 2019
Wood shelf, acrylic, fake fur jacket, boots with mud, two massage balls180 x 67 x 58 cm / 70.9 x 26.4 x 22.8 inFor her wall installation from 2019, Sylvie Fleury once again quotes a male artist. Muddy Haim refers to Haim Steinbach and his striking shelves on which he places everyday objects and all kinds of curiosities. Fleury takes the wall object and the procedure as a starting point and stages the installation with objects from her own—very personal—everyday life. Fake fur jacket, massage balls and high heels, which she has worn to get them dirty, are placed on the immaculate wooden console and act as an insight into the artist's life. By adopting Steinbach's working method, Fleury manages to transfer her own themes—femininity, fashion and consumption—into the original work, thus stimulating reflection on gender roles and their meaningfulness. The dirty shoes, which break the perfection of the wall console, are central to Fleury's approach to male art here and stand for her self-confident, independent path of appropriation.
Rose Pétale, 2019
Acrylic on canvas120 x 120 cm / 47.2 x 47.2 inIn this group of works, Sylvie Fleury shows shaped canvases that refer in form and color to compact make-ups and abstract through extreme shifts in scale. These larger-than-life symbols of contemporary vanity hang like black mirrors on the wall, promising transformation for their consumers and suggesting that art and objects of desire are often synonymous. The use of form, structure and color reflects rules and principles used in Minimalism, Pop Art and the Light and Space movement. Fleury has long been interested in how the makeup industry works and researches. According to Fleury, the qualities that the cosmetics industry takes into account when developing a product are not unlike those that an artist might consider when creating a new work. But while make-up is removed at night, art is supposed to exist for eternity. The extreme magnification of the actually small objects emphasizes their attractiveness, revealing nuances of color that the model is unable to reveal. Here Fleury explores the limits of painting and plays with the two great possibilities of representation, abstraction and figuration, as Donald Judd already attempted with his specific objects.
Inflatable rubber sculpture, four black ropes220 x 201 x 221 cm / 86.6 x 79 x 87 inShame is an inflatable sculpture that Sylvie Fleury has realized using her alter ego. After monumental sculptures shown in Dornbirn, Paris and Zurich, this is the fourth work in this new series. The artist shows herself—as Bitmoji—enthroned with a petrified mine and sunglasses on the huge lettering SHAME. Between the appearance of her self—as a self-referential avatar—and the statement of the writing, where the meaning remains unclear, a significant discrepancy arises, with which the artist also plays in a figurative sense. The air-filled sculpture shows a statement that is also no more than hot air and thus becomes banal. In contrast to the sculptures of a Jeff Koons, which imitate balloons and pretend to be light, although they are made of bronze, Fleury here shows a massive and monumental sculpture that is filled only with air, thus counteracting its size ironically.
Polaroid10,5 x 9 cm / 4.1 x 3.5 in Photography #51 is taken from a series of Polaroids taken in 1998 as part of a commission for a magazine. Sylvie Fleury was invited as art director and, with the help of an instant camera, she searched her immediate surroundings for motifs for the design of the magazine. This resulted in snapshots that give an insight into the life of the artist and illuminate her preferences and hobbies. Photos of fashion, cars, motorcycles or snapshots of her tattooed friends are part of the series. The series was already shown in 1998 in the exhibition Hot Heels at the Migros Museum of Contemporary Art in Zurich and subsequently ended up in a shoe box, which was only recently rediscovered.