Two years after the opening of the Bourse de Commerce and the presentation of her series of small-format paintings that were like intimate fragments, Ser Serpas is taking over Gallery 3 to create a chaotic space brimming with tension, an unsettling scene for visitors who will find themselves immersed in a hybrid zone that makes it seem as if they have stumbled into a space that is being built, and which is inspired by the idea of the attic. Her exhibition forms part of the season Mythologies américaines, which features work that goes against traditional cultures.
For the Bourse de Commerce, Ser Serpas has created a series of paintings and sculptures (covered in fabric) that are profoundly inspired by Alejandro Amenábar’s fantasy film The Others, especially when the voices of ghosts echo throughout the house, as if they were coming to inhabit its abandoned furniture and objects.
The scene of this exhibition, which also involves music (specially commissioned from Manchester artist Leyland Kirby, who revisits his emblematic project The Caretaker), cinema, and fashion, constitutes a veritable echo of how the artist has chosen to reconfigure the gallery space into a fantastical, ghostly site. New paintings by the artist hang from a metal curtain rod that traverses the entire space. Lying between abstraction and figurative representation, they reveal Serpas’ new tendency to dissolve the body as a way to express a loss of a grip on reality and the world around her.
The large canvasses float nonchalantly in the space, as if they had just been finished and have been hung out to dry, echoing the sculptures partially covered in fabric, ghostly, unsettling presences. Marked by all the horror films she saw as a child, Serpas has recreated a paradoxical atmosphere in which the shiver of fright viewers experience also elicits a kind of comfort, a strange warmth.
These new large-scale paintings are oils on canvas of an “ashen” colour that appear almost erased, which for artist are like recollections of the past. These canvasses are inspired mainly by photographs of old romantic relationships or images showing the before and after of plastic surgery. The bodily fragments that appear, along with abstractions, resonate with the assemblages of objects she has arranged in the space, and which she has commissioned from performance artists on the basis of written instructions. During a musical evening on 9 September conceived by the artist as a performance and titled BASEMENT SCENE, formed using abandoned objects that are assembled and built into sculptures to the beat of a DJ set mixed by Ser Sherpas, followed by musical performances by two DJs from the New York and Tokyo scenes, Lydo and Yousuke Yukimatsu. After each performance, the resulting installation LOCKED CLUB will be presented as the snapshot of an afterparty. Performed and formed in the basement of the Bourse de Commerce, the sculptures will be moved into Gallery 3, thereby “cannibalising” the whole. A second version of BASEMENT SCENE will be presented during the de-installation of the exhibition in early February 2024.
Ser Serpas’ exhibition takes the form of a choreographed sound performance. On 9 September, in the Foyer and the Auditorium of the Bourse de Commerce, an evening conceived by the artist Ser Serpas as a prefiguration of her exhibition in Gallery 3. The performance BASEMENT SCENE, formed using abandoned objects that are assembled and built into sculptures to the beat of a DJ set mixed by Ser Serpas, followed by musical performances by two DJs from the New York and Tokyo scenes, Lydo and Yousuke Yukimatsu. At the end of September in the Auditorium, there will be a conversation between Ser Serpas and French art historian and art critic Élisabeth Lebovici on the work of American artist Lee Lozano (1930-1999), which is on exhibit in Gallery 2. Ser Serpas will give a poetry reading on this occasion.
Biography of the artist
Ser Serpas, an artist featured in the exhibition Ouverture at the Bourse de Commerce in 2021, grew up in Boyle Heights, a Los Angeles neighborhood infused with a strong history of radical leftist activism. Serpas took up this cause, dedicating much of her time to community organizing during her high school years.
Disenchanted with the respectability politics within activism, which she found limiting and unaccepting of marginalized groups, art and poetry ultimately replaced her activist work. She moved to New York, and then had studios in Georgia and in France. Her practice, forged during her studies at Columbia University, is largely invested in critiquing and celebrating the value (or lack thereof) of material objects. Whether working with discarded detritus found on the street or hoarded fabric gifted to her by friends, Serpas manipulates these materials to produce art in a manner that complicates perceptions of value, imbuing what would otherwise be garbage with meaning.
In a subversion of Marcel Duchamp’s readymades or Robert Rauschenberg’s Combines, Serpas returns her sculptures to the streets after their display, allowing them to revert to waste and playing with what is permissible inside and outside the museum. Her paintings are also sometimes piled up like skins on structures that do not allow them to be seen in their entirety.