PULSIONS festival, curated by Kalie Granier and supported by Alliance Française Silicon Valley, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States, Santa Cruz Museum of Arts and History, 836M and Pro Arts Gallery, opened at the 836M Gallery on February 13. The itinerant exhibition will also be presented in Santa Cruz in March (Art and History Museum) and in Oakland next October (at the Pro Arts Gallery). The festival’s promise is to make the audience feel the impulse of the French art scene through a selection of recognized and growing artists engaged with science and politics. And indeed, one could experience and interact with the art of eight French contemporary artists: Tania Mouraud, Smith, Kalie Grenier, Justine Emard, Fenx, Eric Michel, Delphine Diallo, and Anne-Charlotte Finel.
Originally planned to begin at the Santa Cruz Art and History Museum, gallery 836M convinced curator Kalie Granier to organize a pop-up exhibition at 836M first. It is only fitting that this engaged festival, which reflects on mixed identities, found its way to the innovative non-profit gallery created by French philanthropists Julie and Sébastien Lépinard. The gallery combines artistic excellence with philanthropic impact.
In a friendly atmosphere, the full room experienced not only the carefully planned exhibitions but also live art, such as Tania Mouraud’s musical permormance "Noise". This 77-year old contemporary French artist works on many formats while always remaining socially engaged and self-reflexive. The audience also discovered SMITH, whose transdisciplinary work, both plastic and theoretical – is understood as an observation of constructions, deconstructions, and displacements of human identity. SMITH’s art also takes on various forms as photography rubs shoulders with cinema, video, choreography, bio-art and the use of new technologies. Justine Emard similarly explores the fertile combination of art and technology through photographs, installations, and videos in which she uses augmented reality to revisit the world of images. She is most interested in the artistic representation of the interaction between primitive intelligence and humans. Because AI embodies a different way of understanding things, non-anthropomorphic, essentially by making decisions, her artwork leads to an experience, and creates an artistic interface between data and human motion.
Curator Kalie Granier – a California-based French contemporary artist – also made Pulsions’ debut with painted wood tondi, paintings which harken the tondo of the Renaissance, a relief based on the circular. She was inspired by the motif of the dream-catcher, which represents the spiritual ideal of the sacred circle central to Native American spirituality. Within that there is an inherent equality, no hierarchy and no element is superior to any other – the animal, vegetable, mineral and astral kingdoms are on the same plane as humanity. As Kalie puts it: "The hybrid spheres of Dreamcatcher use the metaphysical concept of equality. The fascinating, mysterious, geometric circular shape evokes simultaneously the feminine form, the sacred circle and the dream-catcher. This is a synthesis of the shared values, emotions, motives and meanings which bind us in our common struggle."
Hybrid visual artist Loïc Floch aka Fenx also played his part in this exhibition’s success: his work transcribes his emotional, cultural and iconographic sensibility, often inspired by the emerging subcultures in which he takes part such as graffiti or skateboarding. Fenx also made a live painting outside the gallery on Wednesday night. Inside, veteran of 836M Eric Michel’s fluorescent neon installations and videos created a vibrating space, in search for immateriality. 836M Gallery had presented Eric Michel’s first ever solo exhibition, The Light Speaks, in 2018.
Finally, through the user of her striking pictures, Brooklyn-based French and Senegalese visual artist and photographer Delphine Diallo combined artistry with activism, by pushing the many possibilities of empowering women, youth, and cultural minorities through visual provocation. In a similar fashion, video artist Anne-Charlotte Finel sought to create “images moving away from a reality which would be too raw, too defined” slow, almost dreamlike images, similar to an abstract motif.
PULSIONS’ originality is that it deeply questions French artistic identity within an American context by framing exchanges, encounters, and rallying moments. Its ambition is to create and celebrate a sharp and creative dialogue between France and California. That ambition was met on Wednesday night.
Pulsions will be presented at 836M Gallery until March 5, 2019. It will then move to Santa Cruz’s Art and History Museum (March 11- March 18, 2019). Finally, from October 4 to November 1, 2019, the exhibition will be shown at the Pro Arts gallery in Oakland. Other cities are currently being discussed.
Read French Morning's account of Pulsions' opening: https://frenchmorning.com/pulsions-lart-francais-veut-remuer-californie