Sean Kelly is delighted to present Freeze, Memory, an exhibition of recent work by Berlin-based, Swiss artist Julian Charrière. This will be Charrière’s first exhibition in New York and his first exhibition with Sean Kelly. An opening reception will take place on Saturday, September 10 from 6:00 to 8:00pm, and the artist will be present.
Freeze, Memory will present three different bodies of Charrière’s work together for the first time, each exploring how human civilization and the natural landscape are inextricably linked. In the front gallery space, Charriere’s photographic series entitled Polygon will be on view. Inspired by J.G. Ballard’s science fiction short story The Terminal Beach, the artist travelled to Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, the primary nuclear testing site for the Soviet Union. Shot on medium format film, Charriere exposed the negatives to radioactive soil gathered from the area, also known as "The Nuclear Polygon," before developing them. These hauntingly beautiful images evoke ghosts of the area’s nuclear past, whilst also revealing one the most remote and inaccessible locations on the planet.
The Polygon works will be juxtaposed alongside pieces from Charrière’s Tropisme series. In this body of work, the artist has taken ferns, orchids and various succulents, plants known to have existed 65 million years ago during the Cretaceous period, and dipped them in liquid nitrogen. Shock-frozen at -196 degrees centigrade, the plants are then displayed in sealed glass vitrines and kept refrigerated at -20 degrees centigrade, transforming them from ordinary houseplants into delicate "living fossils." Preserved indefinitely in a state between life and death, the works represent an interface between the past and the future and address ideas about ephemerality, the passage of time, and humankind’s attempts to dominate the environment.
Charrière’s most recent series, titled “Metamorphism,” will transform the downstairs gallery space into a cabi-net of geological curiosities. Displayed in vitrines like topological fragments from a futuristic natural history mu-seum, Charrière has melted down the internal elements from various technological devices (main boards, hard drives, CPUs, RAMs, etc. from laptop computers and smartphones) with molten lava, returning them to their geological origins. Beautiful aesthetic objects in their own right, these magnificent polychromatic sculptures reflect upon the mining and use of raw materials and the future of our civilization’s artificial by-products. “The precious metals contained in these sculptural stones—the ecologically problematic and economically contro-versial basis of our digital world—are mined in the furthest reaches of the Earth, and ultimately have been re-turned in Charrière’s metaphorical transformation process to their original form.“ (Julia Brennacher, “Living in The Anthopocene,” in The Forces Behind the Forms: – Geology, Matter, Process in Contemporary Art, Co-logne: Snoeck. Germany. 2016).