Bjarne Melgaard The Casual Pleasure of Disappointment
5 February – 14 March 2015
The Casual Pleasure of Disappointment was Bjarne Melgaard’s first solo show at our Paris Marais gallery. Melgaard’s expressive paintings, drawings, sculptures and installations have achieved a unique position within the international art world. His characteristic style and provocative themes have made him a controversial, but also highly regarded artist. As New York Times art critic Roberta Smith says, “he never met a taboo he didn’t like breaking”.
The starting point for The Casual Pleasure of Disappointment was the figure of French director Catherine Breillat and her film Abuse of Weakness (2014) which also inspired the artist’s eponymous fashion collection, debuting in New York in 2015. Melgaard says “This exhibition is influenced by both Catherine Breillat as a mythical figure and as a reference in depicting emotional conflicts. My new works for Paris question the whole idea of how the beauty industry becomes a foundation for how we read each other, how we are submerged in their products and how they dominate us. They all seduce and manipulate us into believing that we can become something new or better while we are all stuck in the endless disappointment of how we observe ourselves. I wanted to do something really destructive and something nobody really has seen before. The idea is to reverse and deconstruct the boring connection between art and fashion and to deal with the obsessive and self-destructive aspects within notions of beauty.” In addition to this reflexion, the exhibition elaborated freely on Catherine Breillat’s film themes such as abuse, physical deterioration and dependency, which Melgaard has conflated with his own personal history.
Melgaard often works in a collaborative manner and created a series of sculptures and paintings together with hair artist Bob Recine, fashion designer Andre Walker, furniture designer Kwangho Lee, make-up artist Kanako Takase and artist Susan Cianciolo. The fruit of this collaboration was an entire creative universe, surrounded by canvases full of doll-like figures made out of hair, mixed with paint, makeup and various other materials.
Melgaard explained his collaborative approach: “I use both paint and makeup as a medium on the canvases, which are done in collaboration with visionary hairstylist Bob Recine and veteran designer Andre Walker. Our collaboration started with my working on drawings, which I made very quickly and then turned over to Bob and Andre to interpret them, as they wanted. This allowed for a totally free way of working.” The artist suggests we see his works as an ensemble, a labyrinth of contextualized objects and as experiments of painting and sculpture in an extended field, which expresses deceit, vulnerability, extortion, emotion and desire.
Melgaard launched an eponymous menswear/unisex line clothing line entitled The Casual Pleasure of Disappointment. The line was executed in collaboration with creative director Babak Radboy of the meta-brand Shanzhai Biennial and the fashion line TELFAR. It was composed of an amorphous and constantly expanding series of micro-collections, each with their own discreet branding schemes, labels, websites and advertising campaigns resulting in a elastic and diffuse brand-identity in which literally anything can happen. Radboy also worked closely with The Jim Henson Company on the design and production of the Bjarne Muppet which featured styling by Radboy and clothing inspired by Melgaard’s fashion collection.