La Villa du Parc is hosting the artist Renée Levi for a new project called Aimée, starting this winter with an exhibition inside our contemporary art center and continuing on the outside of the venue this spring when she adds a mural to the north façade of our building.
It is a great pleasure for la Villa du Parc to be working once again with Renée Levi at the start of 2021. Our contemporary art center in Annemasse featured a brilliant and memorable piece by the artist, who lives and works in Basel, that was part of the 2014 show Le syndrome de Bonnard (The Bonnard Syndrome). In it she redid a fluorescent wall installation from MAMCO (Geneva) as a sculpture and a sort of fence running through the interior space of La Villa du Parc.
The major invitation that we can extend today is driven by a yearning, after a difficult and dreary year, for a lively exhibition focused on an artist whose generosity, precision, pictorial radicalness, and the accuracy of her architectural perception are well known.
For la Villa du Parc, she has designed a custom-made project that depends on the variations on the natural and artificial light in the venue. It plays on the retinal effects that that light generates by lighting the walls and a collection of existing and new paintings according to the time of day. In Levi’s work, “the concrete venue – which is contingent – is tangentially harnessed,” Christian Bernard aptly writes1, pointing out in this way how the artist integrates the specificities of the space to optimize the conditions of her work’s visibility. It is precisely in this state of mind that the Levi’s show at la Villa du Parc is conceived. The paintings on display are extended and launched anew in on-site murals that vary in their perceptibility.
Amongst the paintings, some have been produced for specific circumstance and the new ones have been conceived this past year at the artist’s studio. Levi generates a tension in them and jostles the intuitive neon-colored line with spray paint, a characteristic of her work. The form is picked up again and repeated in thick geometrical segments of undifferentiated color that constrain the initial drawing while making possible new compositions that are hybrid and dynamic. If the repetition of the motif is inherent in the artist’s physically committed pictorial process, the shift of her initial gesture towards geometrical abstraction is altogether something new and experimental.
Between the picture and the wall, compression and expansion, the line become letter and the line transformed into surface, constraint and overflow, it is a whole dialectic of play and introspection that Renée Levi inaugurates and deploys in her painting at la Villa du Parc.
The show will later expand to outside the venue with the creation of a monumental piece on the façade synthesizing these new expressive experiments and working in the outdoor public space like a painting, a homage, and a signature.
A note on “Aimée”:
Renée spoke to me of her joy when she discovered the existence of Aimée, a Genevan of French and Swiss extraction who began in 1942, at the age of seventeen, to help Jewish children and men and women who were part of the Resistance to illegally cross the border from Annemasse and take refuge in Switzerland. Condemned by Swiss authorities at the time, the Communist and anti-fascist Aimée Stittleman (1925-2004) became a teacher in Geneva after the war and was only pardoned in 2004 by an amnesty law voted by the Federal Council of Switzerland in favor of anti-Nazi militants. “The show could well take her first name,” Renée wrote to me, “and would thus be dedicated to this courageous and inspiring woman with such a beautiful first name, which ends in ée, moreover.” This fortunate homonymic coincidence is not at all rash. For Renée Levi pays deep attention, scriptorially and pictorially, to the name – especially the forename – that is particular to each woman, without any patrimonial attachment; to the identity and memory that her name conjures up and the power that asserting it imposes. From Renée to Aimée, and to all the ées that a genrée (gendered) language like French is endlessly forgetting, the inclusive vowel is painted and universalized here in all its sororal solidarity.
1 Christian Bernard, “Les écheveaux d'Ariane”, in: Renée Levi, Kill me afterwards, Nürnberg, Verlag für moderne Kunst, 2003.