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Carole Benzaken

January 12 - March 2, 2019
Cloître Saint-Merri, Paris

Galerie Nathalie Obadia is very pleased to present Là-bas...Toi, Carole Benzaken’s eighth solo show since 1993, and the first to simultaneously take over both gallery spaces, on rue du Bourg-Tibourg and rue du Cloître Saint-Merri.

In her nearly thirty years of rummaging through image feeds in search of snapshots, Carole Benzaken has methodically developed a polysemous and homogenous body of work, while also allowing heterogeneous ramifications to form. The artist questions the sheer profusion and speed at which these images constantly assault us, provoking a feeling of satiation, despite a visual multiplicity that is never quenched.

At the Bourg-Tibourg gallery, Carole Benzaken will present the series Greffes (Grafts), eight paintings of identical format, in which the chromatic variations shift between acid green and the sweetest of pinks. The subject of the work is hidden by the paint, to the point that it is impossible to recognize it, concealed as it is by the fluctuations in speed. A few vertical lines alone mark the frenetic horizontality, punctuating the artist’s unfettered brushstrokes. Eloquently verbal and musical (“I paint like I speak,” says the artist), these paintings take the viewer on a frantic race through space and time.

Similarly, the series  Au réveil, il était midi*, presented at the Cloître Saint-Merri gallery, challenges our understanding. While we feel like we can perceive trees, houses, walls or a snowy landscape, the succession of frames like windows of hypertextual screens that are superimposed on the crumpled bruises of white paint (teeming with forgotten letters or swarms of birds) foils any attempt at reasoned identification. After the (Lost) Paradise works, these paintings speak of archetypal places where the human presence is blurred by the pictorial process of superimposing variously translucent layers. These landscapes are lit by a perceptual confusion akin to the luminous, chromatic vibrations emanating from modern screens.

The works on paper, Portée d’Ombres, perpetuate this feeling of malfunctioning representation, of a figurativeness so misleading that it becomes abstract. Echoing her technique of division into vertical slices and strips, these oil-stick drawings return to a motif dear to Carole Benzaken: a tree’s branches, as the manifestation of filiation, from root to transmission. While the small Germes Rouges, which she bakes between glass plates, punctuate the gallery with their colorful vivacity, acting as counterpoints to Greffes, the two large Trees tone down the hanging with the intense impenetrability of a forest of birch trees.

In the tradition of African landscapes, of (Lost) Paradise, I-Bowa, Od drzwi do drzwi or Saviv Saviv that once embodied traumatic and textual questions about memory, this new group of works allows for a novel foray into the artist’s personal genealogy. While contamination continues to spread (unfold) in space, Carole Benzaken pursues her pictorial experiments and necessary shifts, by informing each technique with the next, thus addressing issues pertaining to her desire to paint and to think of images today.

* From the poem L’Aube (Dawn) by Arthur Rimbaud.


Born in Grenoble, in 1964, Carole Benzaken lives and works in Paris.

A graduate of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris, Carole Benzaken entered the artistic scene with a noteworthy show at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in 1994.

A winner of the Prix Marcel Duchamp in 2004, she presented the exhibition Search for the New Land at the Centre ­Pompidou’s Espace 315. Carole Benzaken’s work has been the object of many solo shows, including the monographic exhibition at the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaisme in Paris, in 2011; at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nancy, in the spring of 2014; and at the BWA Contemporary Art Gallery in Katowice, Poland, in the fall of 2015. More recently, she was also given a solo exhibition at the prestigious Carré Sainte-Anne in Montpellier, France; at the Museum Slaskie in Katowice, Poland, in 2016; and at the Musée de Louviers, France, in 2017.

Her work was included in several important exhibitions held at prestigious institutions, including La terre la plus contraire at the Fondation Fernet Branca (Saint Louis, France); Invitation au Voyage – 15 ans du Prix Marcel Duchamp in 2015 at La Centrale (Belgium); Miss Dior in 2015 (Beijing, China); Une spiritualité au féminin in 2013 at the Musée d’Art Sacré (Dijon, Musée du Hiéron, Paray-le Monial, France); Palmiers, palmes et palmettes in 2013 at the Musée Masséna (Nice, France); Elles@centrepompidou in 2009 at the Centre Pompidou (Paris, France); Contemporary Cool and Collected in 2007 at the Mint Museum of Art (Charlotte, NC, USA); Eye on Europe : Prints, Books and Multiples, 1960 to Now in 2007 at the MoMA (New York, NY, USA).

Carole Benzaken’s work is held in prestigious public and private collections, including the Royal Academy of Arts (­London, UK), the Museum of Modern Art (New York, USA), the Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val de Marne (MAC VAL-Vitry, France), the Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain (Alsace, France), the Musée national d’art moderne-Centre Pompidou (Paris, France), the Fonds National d’Art Contemporain (France), the Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain (Midi-Pyrénées, France), the ­Fondation Cartier (Paris, France), the Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain d’Ile de France (France), the Fonds Régional d’Art ­Contemporain (Auvergne, France), and the collection of the Fondation LVMH (France).

She was also commissioned to make several public art works, including a tapestry for the Mobilier National in 1998; ­stained-glass windows for the Eglise Saint-Sulpice in Varennes-Jarcy in 1997-2001; and a monumental, backlit and ­programmed glass polyptych for the hall of 32, rue Blanche, in Paris.

Carole Benzaken received many prizes and distinctions, including the Prix Albert Rocheron in 1991, the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in 1998, then that of Officier des Arts et des Lettres in 2008, and Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 2011.

In 2019, she will be given solo exhibitions: in the spring, at the Abbaye de Cluny—invited by the Centre des Monuments ­Nationaux—and in the summer, at the Chateau de Tournon in Tournon sur Rhône.