Starting earlier in her career, the ready-made and collective artist Claire Fontaine’s artworks reflect her name: Clairefontaine, the well-known French notebook brand. Throughout her latest exhibition, “Stop Seeking Approval,” she rejects existing artistic forms and the notion of artistic ownership. The exhibition is Fontaine’s second at Metro Pictures.
Fontaine takes advantage of the spacious environment at Metro Pictures with “Stop Seeking Approval.” Showcasing a wide variety of artistic mediums, Fontaine situates each of her artworks in a multitude of locations throughout the gallery. The many levels of display reflect the various kinds of media she uses. For instance, in one section of the gallery, Fontaine displays a long horizontal sculpture with colorful razor spikes, which would almost go unnoticed without its festive color combination. In the same section, a ready-made photo frame on top of a marble desk is exhibited at the low corners of the room, a monochromatic painting is displayed on the side of one wall and a television playing video of a woman talking about happiness is suspended from the ceiling.
In the middle section of the gallery, numerous monochromatic paintings are spaced evenly along the walls. She demonstrates the themes of theft and intrusion by using security products like never-drying paint, which stains criminals’ clothes and reveals their activities. The thick application of gray, black and maroon pigments is visible on the canvases, as each brushstroke holds onto the surface, giving viewers a 3D experience. If any viewer were to negligently brush upon the surface of the canvas, they too would be marked as a culprit. The individual strokes create a natural pattern of diagonals on the surface.
Fontaine’s humor is also exposed in the last section of her gallery, where she exhibits a painting of a white whale, which is intentionally humorous and appropriately called “White Whale.” This painting evokes the tale of Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick.” It is interesting to note that Fontaine depicts the whale that creates chaos with neat and clean lines, while she fills in the background of the sea in messy and wild strokes. Another puzzling illustration is a person trapped in fire and smog who attempts to breathe in clean air through a hose from a toilet. In the end, Fontaine does not care whether viewers understand her artwork or not, as she does not need one’s stamp of approval, as the exhibition’s title, “Stop Seeking Approval,” alludes to.
“Stop Seeking Approval” is on display at Metro Pictures on 519 West 24th St. until April 4.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 24 print edition. Email Stephanie Cheng at [email protected]