Philippe Parreno: A Manifestation of Objects 1994/2006
Watari-um, November 2 2019-March 22 2020
In his introduction that accompanies this exhibition, PP tells us that those two years, 1994 & 2006, overlap, in that they are presentations and re-presentations of works made over those years, including the eternally ephemeral piece The Ice Man from 1995, which had been shown at the Watari-um in the ‘Reality Park’ group show, curated by Jan Hoet ( when he was very present in Japan; he would also curate an edition of the Yokohama Art Triennale during those years, which still stands among the better ones).
The Watari-um is a notoriously challenging venue, and negotiating its sharp angles can do disservice to more organic work. Yet Parreno has made a careful selection taken from his production over nearly three decades, encompassing notions of the passage of time, of the elements and its consequences on what is shown and how the pieces are transformed.
He also includes examples of dialogues with major figures from art history, notably Duchamp and Warhol, with Wall for the Bride, Speech Bubbles and Wallpaper Marilyn, looking to Michel Serres and Bruno Latour as he expands his notion of the exhibition as a medium. Each work cannot be separated from the history to which it belongs, one might almost be tempted to term them ‘post-combine art’ though Parreno cannot resist the desire to expand the narrative.
In the case of Speech Bubbles, echoing Warnol’s famous Silver Pillow balloons, Parreno’s were intended for union workers to write on them, while his Wallpaper Marilyn looks both to the celebrated Warhol paintings , managing a detour around them in order to quote his own 2012 Marilyn film.
But perhaps the work that best represents Parreno’s achievement is Marquee, from a series that began in 2006 and which includes more than fifty variations so far. While the artist has used them in the past to announce the shows he was presenting in various international institutions, the one at Watari-um provides no title, no data. Rather, it contributes to the formally ascetic tone and color scheme of this exhibition, consisting of transparencies from glass to ice, beige tones, the bright whites of acrylic and blinding lights, to which the closing piece, the ‘Warhol’ room brings an unexacting sense of nostalgia and longing. A room where one might almost want to stay.