I first encountered Nathalie Boutté‘s minutious art at Art Paris and have since been following the evolution of her little papers with great interest. The title for her solo exhibition at Galerie Magnin-A comes from a poem by Virginian writer Daniel Webster Davis published in 1897, “Weh Down Souf”. It is entirely inspired by the photography collection of Rufus H.Holsinger, a white photographer from Charlottesville, Virginia, who was active in the late 1880’s. He used wet-collodion process for his prints which gives them great precision and a rich grayscale. The collection is housed at University of Virginia and includes over 500 portraits of African Americans. Boutté had complete access to the photos to which she adds her contemporary perception and her skills with paper. It is fascinating.
Nathalie Boutté was born in Senlis in 1967 and now works in Montreuil where she used to be a graphic designer. This is her first solo exhibition in France after New York in 2017 at the Yossi Milo gallery. Most portraits are made of small shredded strips of Japanese paper with geometric and abstract letters in Chinese ink. She also often uses printed paper from old books or gets shredded bank notes from Banque de France, which she uses here for the ravishing little portrait of Frank Coleman. The technique is mesmerizing when you look from close up.
“Weh Down Souf” is a beautiful poem sang as a gospel hymn. I like to think that those, to whom I’ve paid homage here, once sang it. Their voices accompany me in this travel toward the South.” The artist was very much impressed by her trip to the South.
She spent time at the University of Virginia looking at all the archives of the photographer and she uses different tones of paper and copper-gold backgrounds for some of her portraits. They are all inspired by formal Holsinger shots but she introduces a specific poetry and magic into the faces and the eyes. I particularly liked the Nina Sniper portrait.
Magnin-A gallery, which is run since 2009 by André Magnin and Philippe Boutté, moved to new premises on boulevard Richard Lenoir last year. It is very near the Bataclan. The large downstairs gallery is huge and allows enough space for the works to be seen from afar. They worked with Jean Pigozzi to create his collection of African art, of which some photographs have been given to MoMa.
Until April 30, Galerie Magnin-A, 118 bd Richard Lenoir. A catalog, designed by Boutté herself, is published with the original photographs facing the new works.
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