Longevity and success. These are two things that Hedi Slimane has, of course, conquered, both in his work as designer and artist. The theme of two continues in two exhibitions at the Almine Rech Gallery, first in Brussels and then in Paris, respectively. Fragments Americana, the first exhibition by Slimane in Brussels, runs concurrently with California Dreamin – Myths and Legends of Los Angeles, curated by Slimane at the Almine Rech Gallery in Paris. Add to that an anthology of his duotone photographs taken from 2000 – 2010, consisting of four volumes to be released this month by JRP Ringier, entitled Hedi Slimane Anthology of a Decade. Shining brightly in the multidisciplinary and distinctly multilayered Fragments Americana, for example, is the work of artist and filmmaker Gus van Sant and three sculptures by Oscar Tuazon. The work of artist Mark Hagen, too, makes a stunningly memorable appearance in the group show California Dreamin. The exhibitions are full of meaning and optimism, effective and freeing, much like the figures and ideas in his work. In fact, much like Hedi himself.
What has drawn you to pursue American youth, a seemingly forever optimistic group that dreams of a bright tomorrow, in your work?
American youth, historically, has always been a mirror for the rest of the world. The teenage spleen of James Dean, the early days of American rock, the counter cultures movement of the 60s, but also the birth of sub cultures suck as skate, surf and others, have inspired many generations until today.
What has been the most beautiful dream you have had?
My dream is always escapist, and somehow to be like a stranger in America, keeping this distance as a healthy relief.
Are you a lover of Brussels? How do you feel about the city?
I don’t know anything about Brussels, let alone Belgium. I have been there three times in my life. Brussels has a large amount of collectors and strong galleries. The space at Almine Rech is like a mini kunsthalle, and appropriate for installing a larger photographic project. It also allowed me to invite artist Oscar Tuazon to produce three new architectural installations, and also to work on a sonic project with my friend Gus van Sant.
AA Bronson said recently that a single moment in one’s life can change everything, after which we will never be the same. I wondered if perhaps you have had such a moment recently?
I do believe this. I always follow the path, without any preconceived idea. Consequently, I have those moments happening all the time, since I’m only reacting to what comes to me naturally.
What has been the mood you are trying to capture in these exhibitions?
I guess a certain representation of Americana, the one I feel connected to. There might be a certain cinematic melancholy. The group show about LA art is also a perspective of many generations of artists, a creative community, including the masters of California art and emerging artists, sharing a certain idea of California.
How do you feel the emotions that are a reaction to certain artworks are similar to the emotions associated with luxury?
If you refer to the design years, as opposed to luxury, it is quite similar, as I was always pursuing the same feel, what you call emotions. My subject does not change; really, it is always the same character, regardless of the medium or the project.
Who are the names, in art and music that you have discovered and that have excited you lately?
There is today a strong scene in California of indie music, which is referring and transposing the tradition of surf music (waves, no age etc). In art, I am following the work of Mark Hagen, a new painter and sculptor that is part of the group show, and extremely talented. His work is significant of a new minimal California movement.
Is there a work in either exhibition that you feel defines this moment in time for you? If so, would you take it with you to a desert island?
The painting of Mark is one of those pieces that I technically already have in my desert island, so to speak, which is my house in LA.
Hedi Slimane Anthology of a Decade is published this month by JRP Ringier.
Fragments Americana runs until 26 March at the Almine Rech Gallery Brussels. California Dreamin – Myths and Legends of Los Angeles also runs until 26 March at the Almine Rech Gallery in Paris.
Text by Michael Kowalinski, via Another Magazine