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If all artists are just a little like magicians, for some, their relationship with matter and its transformation is a real transmutation. Thus, Lionel Sabatté paints by oxidation, sculpts reinforced concrete, and gives new life to dust, skin remnants, and dead trees. A blossoming of forms and materials transcending the boundaries of art and the trivial, of the beautiful and the abject, exhibited at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Saint-Etienne.

Ten years after exhibiting his Pack of Wolves made of dust on a metal structure in the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution of the Paris Natural History Museum, Lionel Sabatté has once again been invited to work on the FIAC Hors les murs (the work can be seen at the Tuileries).

Born in 1975, the artist, who works between Paris and Los Angeles, has from the outset placed the sphere of the living and the transformations of matter due to the passage of time at the heart of his work and his questioning: “How does a so-called inanimate matter become something that can be born, reproduce, die and disappear, that is to say, the three aspects of the definition of the living in biology […] where is the limit between the thing that is defined as living and the thing that is not, because in fact, everything is transformed, everything is linked […]” 1

Emblematic of this quest are the dead trees (bonsai, ash, mulberry, chestnut…) re-flowered with dead skin. No less disturbing is the elegant white square that magnificently closes the exhibition, composed of a varnished sowing of these same dead skins collected from podiatrists and meticulously glued together, first in the solitude of the confinement, then in a group, until they form an organic (and social) tissue that is as fascinating as it is repulsive.

Another transgression of representation participating in this idea of perpetual transformation, of circulation between bodies and materials via degradation, and of regeneration, hybridization and fragmentation appear as fundamental in Lionel Sabatté’s plastic vocabulary.

While in his flamboyant polyptics, which seem to emerge from the bowels of the earth, he plays with the alteration by the oxidation of metal plates to inscribe in these telluric partitions “the mutability of each thing at each moment,” as well as the “moving stain” that gives rise, in a series of drawings, to embryonic forms and mutant figures. His monotypes, 2made from the improbable concretion of old zinc plates, papers, and textile scraps superimposed, pressed, impregnated, and enhanced with inks, show the germination of living forms through that of the line, oscillating between form and formlessness, to make chimerical organisms appear.

Called Fragments, his “human figures” are more like ruins than anatomy: made of an aggregate of cement, wire, concrete iron and pigments, these imperfect, truncated, atrophied bodies, kneeling in an unstable equilibrium, seemingly ready to fall over backwards, represent, according to their author, “man in the process of building himself, in his attempt to stand upright”: “It seems to me that we are as much on the side of construction as we are on the side of ruin.”

  1. Extract from the interview between Lionel Sabatté and Aurélie Voltz, director of the MAMC in St-Etienne and curator of the exhibition, in the exhibition catalogue.
  2. “Organismes et Fantasma,” a series of monotypes exhibited at Galerie 8+4 until November 6. Galerie 8+4 – 38, rue de Turin, 75008 Paris

Exhibition: “Lionel Sabatté – Eclosion”

Jusqu’au 2 janvier 2022
Au musée d’Art moderne et contemporain de Saint-Etienne

– Échafaudages
Espace Jacques Villeglé

Place François-Truffaut, 95210 Saint-Gratien
From October 07, 2021 to December 11, 2021

– Possible Remains of our Future
Galerie Ceysson & Bénétière

956, Madison Avenue, 10021 New York – États-Unis
From November 10th 2021 to December 18th 2021

By Stéphanie Dulout


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