L’Empreinte | Olivier Malingue

It’s hard to theme an exhibition around a concept. If the concept’s too broad, the effect is absurd; too specific, and it could just be hair-splittingly academic and boring. But this very smartly-conceived and executed show finds the sweet spot, featuring works which all feature some form of imprint. A concept sufficiently rich in suggestion, and encompassing a sufficiently broad variety of artistic expression, to make this exhibition really special.

The imprints brought together by Olivier Malingue range from Gina Pané’s self-cutting experiments, to one of Yves Klein’s grossly misogynist body-print paintings, right next door in a cunning juxtaposition. There’s a gorgeous (and tiny) Antoni Tàpies clay box, monogrammed with his initials. And an embossed, radiantly menacing, white-on-white Ed Ruscha print of a gas station nearby.

installation view

For the show, the French-Vietnamese artist Thu-Van Tran produced a site-specific mural across an entire wall of the gallery. She mixed purplish pigment with latex, let it stick to and drip down the wall, and then pulled the whole thing off.

There remains a couple of deep purple chunks of latex, up near the ceiling. Plus a pinkish imprint, like a pattern of damp. Or bloodstains. As with much of her other work, Tran’s mural is an evocation of her ancestral land’s recent history of colonialism and war. Just as Pané’s imprints, photographed and mounted on the opposite wall, raged against her subjugation as a woman.

Whimsically, the mural is studded with Surrealist prints from Meret Oppenheim (frottage), Oscar Dominguez, Adrien Dax and Georges Hugnet (ink washes in various forms).

Art critic Emily LaBarge writes in her essay accompanying the exhibition: “The perfect stain is the one we live inside of every day, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not; the one that it is our duty to investigate, for it is clear that human beings make their mark-their imprint, l’empreinte-wherever they go.”

Taken as a sumptuous whole, this show is a deeply smart artistic expression of that thought.

L’Empreinte is at Olivier Malingue (London). October 02 - December 13 2019