In a new collaboration between the two institutions, from 29 January 2023, the exhibition Le Retour [The Return] will place the collection of the Mrac Occitanie in dialogue with a selection of works recently acquired by the Centre national des arts plastiques (Cnap), which will take up residency in the museum’s galleries for the next year. The twenty-nine artists featured come from across the generational spectrum and work in Europe – half of them in France – and the United States. Many works are being shown for the first time in France and/or in a museum context.
Breaking with thematic exhibitions and the ostensible neutrality of presentations drawn from museum collections, Le Retour is organized like a paranoid crisis, a nightmare or a trip, that is, around a central absence.
The works gathered here are in some ways familiar. Many of them draw on the everyday, on a domestic or commercial vernacular, on the contemporary overproduction of clichés and things. Some look to subvert or even to sabotage the way in which images circulate through digital channels.
Across the ebb and flow of images and the clinging mass of objects, Le Retour allows memories, fears and desires to agglutinate. No sooner are they repressed than they come to the fore once again.
Beneath their seductive surfaces – LED screens, brilliant glazes – everything is corrupt, tendentious, joyously dysfunctional: painting and pixels contaminate one another, wallpaper creeps over the white cube, sculptures are soft or even flaccid. The works brought together in ‘Le Retour’ mock tirelessly every last one of modernism’s grand principles, with medium specificity and all that jazz reduced to little more than elevator music. Beyond art, what is visible here is a vital elan. Strategies of hybridization and desires for transmutation seem to run from one room to the next: artist-bird, man-woman-computer, bidet-buttock.
The dogged wrong-footing of fixed forms and categories appears here as a strategy of resistance against an alienating reality. Neither regression nor withdrawal, Le Retour a deftly executed sidestep.
Photos by Aurélien Mole