Julie Béna05.11.12 - 07.11.12
NıCOLETTı presents a solo exhibition by French artist Julie Béna (b. 1982), who is represented by the gallery since 2021. Combining sculpture, installation, film and performance, Béna’s practice scrutinizes the power and class relations at work within gender and identity politics. Over the years, the artist has created a range of personal cosmologies and fictional environments populated by recurring characters such as spiders, mice, jesters, butterflies and flying phalluses, which she assembles within theatrical displays that dissolve the distance between art and spectacle, illusion and reality. Juxtaposing motifs from art-historical, theatrical and literary contexts with those from mass media and popular entertainment, Béna’s work plays with the ambiguity of human emotions, often conflating feelings of anxiety, exuberance, brutality and lushness.
At Artissima, Béna’s exhibition will comprise a series of sculptures forged in black-coated metal, presented alongside glass objects and hand-made lace works. The centre stage will be occupied by a monumental horse, whose sleek materiality and angular carcass suggest a fusion between animal and machine. A nod to the story of the Turin Horse, which tells how philosopher Nietzsche suffered a mental breakdown after seeing a horse being whipped in the street of Turin, Béna’s horse also evokes equestrian statues, which are traditionally used to celebrate triumphant male conquerors in Western city squares. Here, Béna deconstructs that tradition by surrounding her horse with composite organisms that play with the codes usually associated with the masculine and the feminine. These include hybrid birds, a pair of women’s legs displayed against the wall in an evocative position, a flower made of glass, which features miniature phalluses on its head, and a finely laced spider web – usually ascribed female for its dexterous crafting abilities –, which appears to have caught fetish objects such as a lipstick, a hairpin, and a pair of puckered lips, all references to the artist herself. Combining humor and seriousness, self-reference, irony and political consciousness, Béna’s display will invite viewers to navigate an enigmatic environment that breaks through dominant gender roles and binary oppositions to conjure the performative nature of cultural representations.