“Hai,” he said switching effortlessly from flawless French to his natural Kiwi-flavored English, “It’s guud ta meet ya. Welcam to Paaris.”
Richard was a tall man, broad, with black and grey hair falling in messy curls around his ears and neck and brushing the collar of his shirt. He wore his crumpled, white dress shirt tucked into his dark, washed out blue jeans. His shoes were bright blue, like the washed out hue of a clear sky on a late summer afternoon. He folded his arms and listened patiently as Francisco explained me at length in French. At least I assume he was talking about me. I heard the words “Fuller” and “Los Angeles” mixed into all those other beautiful French sounds.
“Roight. Well, this is ParisCONCRET, ahr gallery space. Ahr main perpis, loik huh naim suggests is to feature cahncreet ahrt, that bein ahrt that is maid of objects with dimensions, not just a painting thaht represents or creates thuh illushun of dimenshunahlity.”
Richard then showed around his small gallery. It consisted of three walls, each wall featuring a different artist. He explained that the idea was to put the work of three artists from three different parts of the world in conversation with one another, and hopefully, to get the artists themselves, who have such complimentary styles, talking as well.
“We’re reely pahrt of a very naerow strain of this kind of ahrt that’s very abstract and simple, but theyah ahr a lot of peeple out theyah doin this type of thing. They just don’t olways know one anothah.”
The art on the wall the day I visited was exactly as Richard described – concrete, abstract, and simple. Along one wall, three sheets of very thick, very coarse paper had been hung. The sheets of paper were completely black on both sides and textured like the three dimensional topographic map. The Croatian artist, Mario Kolaric, had made them paper himself and then blackened it by making millions and millions of dots with a black marker on both sides of the paper.
“Mahrio says its ahl about the process of making the paper and making each individual dot. He just does it until theyahs nothing left that cahn be done to the paper, and then he stahrts another. His goal is to have a whole show with hundreds of these things, stacked up and hung around and whatever.”
On the wall perpendicular to Kolaric’s processed papers, three brightly colored blocks were mounted and connected to pieces of Erector Set. One was laying on the floor and the Erector Set pieces connected to the front of the block and then back up to the wall at a 45 degree angle. The second block was raised and flat against the wall with its Erector Set pieces descending down from the block’s lower corner at a 45 degree angle to the floor. The third piece consisted of a black box on the ground with an identically sized white box directly above it attached to the wall, and a line of Erector Set connecting the two.
“Karen Schifano is from New Yoork. These pieces ahr supposed to represehnt a fiah escape and a balloon hooked to a weight on thuh ground. So much mahdahn ahrt was so serious. We like pieces that ahr fun.”
The final wall held up four odd, something-a-hedonal shapes, all of them jet black and perfectly shiny, like shards of a shattered ebony mirror.
“Now Alexandra heah doesn’t even make her pieces. She just designs them and sends them off for someone else to make.”
We stepped closer and inspected them, seeing our own reflections mostly, unable to shake the strange feeling that we knew these shapes somehow, but we were unable to correctly identify what was being represented.
“If you stand back a bit, I think you’ll be able to tell theyah four different perspectives on a cube flattened to two dimensions.”
Sure enough, as we stepped back, the cubical shapes jumped right out of their two dimensions at us.
We moved away after a moment more toward the folding table and chair where Richard spent most of his day keeping the gallery open. Conversation drifted to why I was in Paris, what I was studying, why I was studying what I’m studying.
“Yea. People ask us ahl the time whai we’re doin this. Mai wife and I ask each other that too – ‘Whai ahr we spending ahl this money to have this gallery and host these ahrtists?’ One toim a lady came to one of ahr openings, and she stayed ahl noight. Afterwards she came up to us and said, “I know why you do this – you’re Artists Encouragers!’ We loiked that.”
To see pictures of the three installations I saw this afternoon, visit ParisCONCRET’s website.
As an interesting side note, I’ve only known two Kiwis in my life, and they are both named “Richard.”
Gene Kelly Was Here
These blog posts were all written in the summer of 2011. They chronicle my time in Paris completing an internship as part of my studies at Fuller Seminary. I worked at an art gallery run by missionary-artists ministering to other Parisian artists and got to know the missionary-artists working there.
I am including them here for you to read because I think they work well together as a series. I wrote them as a kind of narrative collage about what it means to be a practicing artist whose first commitment is to Christ and who seeks to share the love of Christ with other artists.