The best artists of the French art scene

Dépaysages

Alexandra Roussopoulos

7 000 €

Year : 2013

Artists generation : Born in the 60's

Category : Painting

Method : Acrylic on canvas and rice paper

Size : 140 cm x 210 cm

The Euclidian fields of geometry seem to go all soft, fuzzy and eccentric in Alexandra Roussopoulos’s shaped canvases. Their forms are familiar, but their facture does not feel absolute or predetermined.   Her paintings aren’t so clean and finicky. We are not dealing here with Los Angeles Fetish Finish of the 1960s and ‘70s, though those lacquered and plexiglas forms are certainly alluded to. The artist is explicit on this point: “I like them a little dirty,” she says. “I want them to be like skin. I have no desire for perfection.”

Roussopoulos’s “Flaque,” “Anguleuse,” and “Euclidienne”  are floating abstractions she begins with fluorescent acrylics and gradually paints down to pale, shimmery tones best seen in daylight.  Their stretchers are cobbled together with bits of cast-off wood, and their undersides, and edges, are thick with layers of paint. Their heavy physicality makes their illusionism – of emptying out, of nothingness – that much more tangible. (Photographic details of  the “Flaque” suggest human bodies – scrunched together at some early ‘70s love-in or avant-garde theater workshop.)

Geometry and feminism, biomorphism and automatism freely intermingle in her art.  Roussopoulos makes sensitive and humorous use of readymades – the traced outline of a plastic cord used to attach scissors to packaging is one of her best shapes, like a flying saucer.  Her biomorphic cutouts of  brightly colored foam and girlish plastic notebook covers (the metallic Op pattern looks to be a high-school fave) bespeak a calm, yet intense collagist.

Roussopoulos is a child of  ’68  (born in 1969) –  one of those children of the counterculture who  had a rarefied view of the situation.  Her parents were a golden couple of the Parisian avant-garde: the Swiss-born Carole Roussopoulos a well-known feminist filmmaker and  social activist; the Greek-born Paul Roussopoulos an activist as well as a physicist,  painter and maker of architectonic kites. (I once saw these kites, which have never been exhibited, in a bedroom in the family’s house on the Greek island of Spetses. They were beautiful, lucid things.)

Alexandra grew up with her parents and brother Geronimo in a open-plan modernist house in the 14th, where she still lives and works, now with her own two teenage daughters and their father, the British-born artist Martin McNulty. Memories of  Carole Roussopoulos’s feminist collective “Les Insoumuses”  are palpable in the house, particularly on this 40th anniversary of May ’68, and Alexandra says she found the mood of those ‘70s women’s barn-storming collaborations “joyous and optimistic.”

Utopian space is everywhere apparent in  her art.  The “Espaces Inventés” depict walls and floors floating disembodied: no windows, ceilings, doors, only the occasional pillar. To me, they don’t suggest ideal art galleries as much as tactile spaces for  babies to crawl around in.  In these child-proofed zones, the illustrated versions of Roussopoulos’s  reliefs are like big eyes -- omniscient presences presiding over the safe emptiness.

These quizzical drawings – at once autonomous and illustrational -- remind me  of Blinky Palermo’s carefully ruled yet lushly colored diagrams for his wall paintings, a body of work Roussopoulos says she “adores.” Palermo’s wall drawings and fabric paintings, in their site-specific relation to architecture and  their fragmentary, laid-back look, are more than ever having  a seismic effect on younger artists, especially painters.

Roussopoulos’s “Eaux Mouvantes” --  decoupages of painted canvas  -- are resilient, floppy items (no delicate butterflies these)  that can be adhered to wall or floor.  In a studio visit, she scatters them, then gathers them up nonchalantly.  (She likes to put her art in a single suitcase when she travels.) I  sense a renewed fascination with ‘60s and ‘70s Process Art: the fragile wall reliefs of Richard Tuttle; the scrappy, biomorphic still-life paintings of Elizabeth Murray; the floor-hugging,  polyurethane foam  “spill” sculptures of Lynda Benglis --  all come to mind as precedents for Roussopoulos’s “rad” flexibility.

The  notebooks are private fields where public armies of abstract shape coalesce. In Frontiere  (2006), myriad outlines of France jostle for position in a tight frame.  (Roussopoulos has taught art at a progressive primary school  in the boho-intello 14th for many years.)  This drawing recalls a classroom exercise in which the  kids are made to rethink the notion of borders, national and otherwise.

Even her titles are loaded. “C’est quoi l’histoire?” sounds harmless enough, but it’s a killer to answer.  “Anguleuse” is  a pun on “engueuleuse” -- an ironic take on the angry, shrewish stereotypes of the women in  the ‘70s Insoumuses.   The “Euclidienne” conjure up a group of radical female geometers from the 1790s – French Revolutionary syntheses of the artist’s mother and father principles.

From Claude-Nicholas Ledoux to Tatiana Trouve, French art has flirted with a dream of  functional  geometry   -- pyramids with belching smokestacks, glossy trapezoids with electric cords dangling.   Alexandra Roussopoulos’s art is part of this tradition, though it shuns the more dystopian aspects of revolution. The liberation movements of her childhood are still fresh in an art that she sees as intrinsically “female.”

 Her “Flaque”  remind me of a fragment of my own American art-historical childhood: a huge field painting by Georgia O’Keeffe, Sky Above Clouds IV (1965). her largest painting ever, a painting so big in fact  (243.8 by 731.5 cm) that they couldn’t get it out of the Art Institute of Chicago in the ‘60s, back when I was growing up there in the suburbs, and  so it  remains  there (finally acquired by the museum in 1983).  Roussopoulos’s  “Flaque” don’t have this constraint of size, but they are as dreamy as O’Keeffe’s enormous horizontal painting, with its minutely gradated recession of row upon row of blank white shapes retreating towards a impossibly high, and rainbow-tinted horizon. Brooks Adams - All quotations are from conversations with the artist in March-May 2008.

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Alexandra Roussopoulos

Alexandra Roussopoulos

Alexandra Roussopoulos was born in Paris in 1969, and is of Swiss and Greek descent. Through painting, she explores the relationship among shape, color and space, and questions the physical and mental spaces she lives in. Her work has always emphasized the importance of artistic dialogue and the connection with others. She regularly collaborates in art projects and has participated to numerous artist residencies in Slovenia, Croatia, Algeria, Greece, Ireland, Spain and China. Each of these experiences has had a great impact on her artistic practice. The spatial displacement is always an occasion to rejuvenate her vision of her past and future.

Alexandra has participated in the activities of the APDV art center in Paris, which brings artistic action to the heart of government subsidized housing areas. She has organized and curated several exhibitions, Water and Dreams at the Kamchatka gallery in 2007, Mauvais Genre in collaboration with Isabel Duperray at a Moroccan gallery in St Nazaire in 2009 and Young Memories in episodique Gallery in Paris in 2015/2016.

Alexandra has exhibited in Switzerland (at Art and History Museum of Neuchâtel, Louis Moret Foundation and the Manoir in Martigny, davel 14 in Cully, Villa Bernasconi in Grand-Lancy, Ferme Asile in Sion, and LAC in Vevey), in France (at L’Art dans les Chapelles, la Cité Radieuse de Le Corbusier in Marseille, the apartment/studio of Le Corbusier in Paris, Marie-Victoire Poliakoff gallery in Paris, and the gallery Scrawitch/Julien BEZILLE in Paris), in China (at Pifo Gallery and the Art Gallery Lelege in Beijing, Shanghai Yard Art Gallery, and National Wetland Museum in Hangzhou), in New-York (Zurcher Gallery) and London ( The Baldwin Gallery).

Alexandra studied in England (Camberwell School of Arts) and Paris (École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts). She was awarded the visual arts prize of the René Liechti Foundation in Switzerland in 2010 and the "November in Vitry" painting prize in 2002.

She regularly participates in workshops in France and abroad (in France, at La Hear, Mulhouse and ESBA Le Mans and in China, the Academy of Fine Arts of China and the University of Fine Arts in Hangzhou).

Her work is present in a diversity of public collection such as the MAC VAL Museum (Vitry Sur Seine, France), in the Valais Cantonal Museums Contemporary Art Collection of the State of Valais, Switzerland and in the Lancy Art Collection of Contemporary Art, Switzerland.

Exhibitions
From March, 17 2017 to April, 16 2017 / Abstract Art 10, exposition collective, Galerie Pifo / Beijing, China
From March, 10 2017 to May, 28 2017 / Peindre, dit-elle - Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dole / Dole, France
2016 / Early as snow, invitée par Éric Baeur / 33 rue de Grenelle, Paris, France
2016 / Hand to hand, avec Judith Espinas / Galerie Pixi-Marie-Victoire Poliakoff, Paris, France
2016 / Salon Zurcher, Galerie Zurcher / New-York, USA
2016 / Nissi 16, résidence d’artistes / île de Spetses, Grèce
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