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LAURENT GRASSO holds solo exhibition "ORCHID ISLAND" at PERROTIN Tokyo

Laurent Grasso’s works span multiple mediums, such as film, painting, sculpture, architecture, and installation. He is especially known for taking a bird’s-eye view of the history of civilization, freely leaping from the future to the past and from the past to the future. Researching the history, science, and mythology of various regions around the world, he has created works based on diverse motifs, from clouds, shooting stars, and total solar eclipses to miracles, ruins, paradigm shifts, scientific discoveries, and the phenomenon of fasciation in flowers and plants. He has also visualized elements that are not directly observable to the human eye, such as light, sound, electricity, gravity, waves, and cosmic energy. These works are mythological and scientific at the same time, resembling archaeological artifacts while remaining remarkably contemporary and at times pop, stimulating the minds of the viewers.


LAURENT GRASSO ORCHID ISLAND

Laurent Grasso, Stills of Orchid Island, 2023. HR film, 19’ 14’’.

©︎Laurent Grasso / ADAGP Paris, 2023. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin.


In Japan, Grasso’s solo exhibition Soleil Noir (“Black Sun”) was held at the Ginza Maison Hermès Le Forum in 2015. In 2016, his work was shown in The Universe and Art exhibition at the Mori Art Museum. During this time, he also researched Japanese culture, producing a strange and intriguing body of work that eclectically fuses Western and Japanese cultures. For his Studies into the Past series, Grasso painted a giant stone as a sacred object surrounded by samurais. The series also features a painting and a sculpture inspired by the legend of Utsurobune no Banjo, a foreign woman who appeared on the coast of Hitachi Province in a disc-shaped boat during the Edo period in the 19th century. Furthermore, his sculpture of a Christian monk with an inverted triangular head derived from Jomon clay figurines could be interpreted as depicting ancient aliens.


The film Orchid Island shows monochromatic, documentary-like footage of a verdant tropical island with a huge rectangular cloud hovering above it, like a monolith or a flying carpet. The cloud moves slowly and majestically, casting a rectangular shadow and black rain over the ocean and subtropical forests. It seems both supernatural and divine entity. The haunting melody and the juxtaposition of primeval nature with the rectangular cloud – an object of science fiction and myth – create an atmosphere that makes it impossible to identify when the film takes place.


LAURENT GRASSO ORCHID ISLAND

Laurent Grasso, Studies into the Past. Oil on wood, 30 x 50 x 2.5 cm | 11 13/16 x 19 11/16 x 1 inch.

©︎Laurent Grasso / ADAGP Paris. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin.


The film is based on footage shot on Taiwan’s Orchid Island (Lanyu), once known for its wild orchids but now home to a radioactive waste storage facility. Around the 18th century, orchids began to be imported from subtropical Asia to the West, where they were cared for and hybridized into new varieties. A sense of exoticism surrounded the orchids and the subtropical, often colonial regions where orchids grew wild. Most people associate native Taiwanese orchids with the Phalaenopsis variety. However, the small, dainty white orchids originally discovered in Taiwan were transformed into the gorgeous Phalaenopsis we know today through Japanese cultivation techniques. This fact brings to mind the various relationships between Japan and Taiwan.


It is also worth noting that landscapes and clouds are the subjects of this work. During the Renaissance (from the 14th to 16th century), Western art used landscapes as backdrops for religious, historical, and mythological narratives. Leon Battista Alberti introduced the idea of a painted image as a rectangular “window,” which led to the development of perspective. Thereafter, painters who were freed from religion and adopted a scientific viewpoint began to depict nature as it was. By the 17th century, landscapes had become a subject matter in their own right. In the East, by contrast, landscapes had already existed as a genre of painting since the 5th or 6th century, showing an otherworldly paradise inhabited by mountain hermits.


Furthermore, in Western art history, as described in Hubert Damisch’s A Theory of /Cloud/1 , clouds were often used to delineate the boundary between the world of God and the world of humans. This boundary served as an aspiration and a limit to human spiritual progress and as a symbol for angels who passed freely between heaven and earth. Clouds have an irregular shape, constantly changing, absorbing the projections and imaginations of those who gaze at them. They also symbolize the veil between reality and fiction, a translucent, gray zone. Today, the word “cloud” also refers to a storage place for data, the foundation of our information society.


LAURENT GRASSO ORCHID ISLAND

©︎Laurent Grasso / ADAGP Paris. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin.


The cloud in Grasso’s work is an abstract rectangular frame, moving through the sky and looking down on nature from a divine perspective, reminiscent of the monolith in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and the Panopticon as theorized by Jeremy Bentham and Michel Foucault. The radar that appears as a contrast to the hibiscus petals in the film reminds us that nature is kept under surveillance and control. The black rain can be seen as a blessing for nature or a source of environmental pollution, like nuclear rain. Taiwan is a geopolitically complex location. The black rectangular cloud that appears over it could also be a data cloud that stores geopolitical information and serves as a window or screen for promoting awareness of the various crises.


The surfaces of the four landscape paintings in this exhibition are covered with a translucent filter, materializing the cloud that functioned as a moving screen in the film. In addition, there are several smaller clouds made of black marble, providing a sharp contrast to the godlike cloud of the film. Yet, considering that marine life on the ocean floor becomes limestone and eventually marble through tectonic movement, these small clouds may harbor the memory of the water that poured into the ocean from this colossal black cloud.


The supernatural, science-fiction-like phenomena that frequently appear in Grasso’s works suggest that what we perceive as reality may be nothing more than images shared by society and that an analysis of invisible elements may produce a completely different reality. To recognize this reality, we need a perspective not limited to a particular period, allowing us to move freely through time. In today’s society, the internet has become ubiquitous, and, as a result, information from the past and present coexist, much like the twinkling of stars. We may see the light of stars that have long since ceased to exist and think they are still shining. When asked whether he believed in linear or circular time, Grasso replied: “I believe in both.” Like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, considered a metaphor for CinemaScope, his black rectangular cloud can be seen as a screen reflecting contemporary environmental and geopolitical issues, offering a perspective that transcends time and space.


Reiko Tsubaki

Curator, Mori Art Museum

 

General Information

LAURENT GRASSO

ORCHID ISLAND


Venue

PERROTIN TOKYO

(Piramide Building

1F, 6-6-9 Roppongi Minato-Ku, Tokyo 106-0032)


Date

January 26 — February 24, 2024


Opening hours

Tuesday - Saturday 11am - 7pm

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