The survival of the individual spirit, despite the environment or overwhelming circumstances, is a pervasive theme often expressed in art and literature. In 1998, French photographer Christophe Clark and painter Virginie Pougnaud, became two of the most recent artists to collaborate on work about the feelings experienced when introduced to a different culture, and how people choose to prevail in their daily existence.
As Pougnaud said, "We are observing it (America) like a tall beautiful building from the street level, with envy, filled with admiration but skepticism and a little fear... for us, there is a sense of loneliness among the people, greater than anywhere else. The whole goal of personal achievement, the idea that ‘if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere' is so strong, creating a geographical distance in the family bond... The vastness of the country and the dreams it contains, well above human scale, are forcing each person to surpass oneself or to drown...it's an amazing challenge."
Clark & Pougnaud's observation of the solitary person walking amid thousands of strangers are in many ways an extension of what Edward Hopper first explored. Hopper was one of America's most influential painters of the 20th century, depicting urban American vignettes which resonated with loneliness and isolation. Choosing deserted streets, cafes, train stations and hotel rooms as his subjects, Hopper gained an international reputation as a pictorial poet, whose paintings spoke to the plight of mankind during the Great Depression, and still carry impact today.
"Hommage à Edward Hopper" is Clark & Pougnaud's tribute to Hopper's insight on America. Presented in nine photographs, each piece in the series begins as a miniature set-like construction which is built and painted to reference a particular painting. Once complete, this dollhouse-size structure is photographed and scanned into a computer with another photograph taken of a figure. These digital assemblages bridge the gap between painting and photography, presenting images which defy categorization. In "Hommage à Edward Hopper," the artists affirm the thematic relevance of estrangement in society, as seen in his seminal works, Nighthawks and Morning Sun.
In "Les Contes de Fees" (Fairy Tales) and "Le Parcours de Dorothy" (Dorothy's Journey), the plight of the individual continues to inspire Clark & Pougnaud, as they examine archetypical tales which have inspired generations of children to dream of princes, dwarfs, flying evil witches and talking wolves. In Elliot et Deborah, we see two young children holding hands in a magical forest of towering trees and a candy coated house; in Aurore endormie, a young maiden in a flowing white gown sleeps in a canopy bed within a palatial garden, awaiting her prince; in Bettina, a young girl in a red dress lies down for a rest in the forest grass, staring intently at the approaching viewer; in La Chute we see a young girl crouching on the ground between buildings, her red shoes glistening.
Whether referencing Hopper, The Wizard of Oz or Hansel and Gretel, Clark & Pougnaud's interest in humanity, and the choices we make which shape our identity, is the backbone of one of the smartest and most striking bodies of work today.
Christophe Clark, whose father is American, was born in France in 1963. He grew up in a family of photographers and opened his own Paris studio at the age of twenty. In 1995, he started working with digital photography. Virginie Pougnaud was born in France in 1962. In 1987 she moved to New York City to study at the Parson School of Design and the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1993, she moved back to France where she met Christophe Clark.
We are thrilled to be hosting their American debut.