Sylvie Fleury (b. 1961, Geneva) first came to recognition in the early 1990’s with her sculptures composed of shopping bags casually installed on the floor, as if dropped in the hallway after a long and totally exhausting afternoon on 5th Avenue. The pictures of these early installations are now well known, widely circulated and, naturally, re-appropriated by Fleury herself. Yet what gets lost in reproduction, is that each bag conceals an opulent garment: fine lingerie, stilettos, a silk dress, secreted away by the artist. This occult act of occlusion, or of ‘burying the dog’ as the early 20th Century mystic Gurdjieff might put it, signals a lifelong and sincere engagement with mysticism, new age philosophy and the esoteric that has informed Fleury’s work of the past three decades.
“Just Jacuzzi” is an exhibition of sculpture, painting and video focused around two installations. Spanning the length and width of the upstairs gallery is an architectonic catwalk, set against a mandala-like mural and encircled by twenty-three square paintings of varying size. Reenacting Jackson Pollock’s tortured explorations of the inner self, Fleury painted the canvases on the floor, interweaving sinuous filaments of gold and silver over the course of one single painting session. Each is accessorized with a braided chain handle and in a private runway show, prior to the exhibition opening to the public, carried down the runway under the arm of a model to be hung nonchalantly on a single screw. The installation is a restaging of the same performance that took place in Paris in 2008 at Thaddeus Ropac Gallery. Counter to the fashion industry’s commandments of radical evolution and individual expression, the models are all styled in the same matching outfits. The paintings are near-identical to those made 15 years ago. The one-off event of the runway show is made into a ritual.
Backstage stands a towering rocket ship primed for interdimensional travel that shifts color from pink to blue depending on the viewing angle. Behind glows a symbol comprising seven interconnected circles, traced from an online image of a crop circle; the same symbol can be found emblazoned onto robes hanging nearby. Downstairs, two neon texts installed in vitrines emit a restorative blue light. Taken from a discontinued Prada skincare line, one reads “EXFOLIATE” and the other “REVIVE”. Together they articulate the mechanisms of repetition, not as a machine-like act but as one of eternal renewal, of rebirth. In the center of the room a circular jacuzzi tub set on chromatherapy mode gurgles in chorus with a video of sputtering mud and the ultrasonic hum of essential oil diffusers. The beginning of any alchemical experiment is of course to remove all friction from life.
Three circular paintings “The Luminous Lifting Cushion Foundation (Pink Porcelain)”, “Skin Caviar (Porcelain Brush)” and “Essence de Teint (Golden Beige)” all 2019 are reminiscent of Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist compositions in their reduced geometry. Informed by the philosophies of esotericist P.D.Ouspensky, Malevich sought to express the higher order of reality through form and color. Fleury’s paintings take their forms, colors and titles from popular foundations and concealers. If Sol Lewitt used repetition as a pneumatic press to expel the subject, and STURTEVANT wielded repetition as an x-ray to expose the understructure, Fleury uses repetition as a mantra. She reproduces and repeats the apparatus and output of cultural production across time and space, to transcend our plane of existence and the perception of multiplicity, converting the everyday into the esoteric, where subject and object merge and there is only one.
- Tobias Czudej