Camille Blatrix is evasive. His name alone is misleading; on top of that, his work is consistently difficult to decipher. Seen as reproductions, you can’t be sure if you’re looking at a photograph, object or collage; real-life encounters similarly warp perception, with finishes, angles and images combined into discreet, destabilized objects. Blatrix has referred to his works as “emotional objects.” They refer to interactions between people and the feelings that come to pass, fragmented moments emblazoned within an object. An encounter, a feeling, a thing—all merge into one site, rendering new interpretations for the actual purposes (and emotional properties) of functional objects. Feelings are fleeting, hard to hold onto; they resist language, at worst falling into cliché. This inherent elusiveness mirrors the quality of Blatrix’s works: objects that are difficult to grasp, or that make it clear we are intercepting an exchange meant for someone else.
Tickets, letters, keys—all symbolic tools and methods of passage—reoccur within Blatrix’s work. These mechanisms for physical and emotional exchange are sometimes lost or go unanswered. In NiNA (2014), a young woman sits behind a window, holding a cigarette and looking bored. A presumed ticket seller, she performs in a kiosk created by the artist. The sculptural ticket booth comes into vivid life through her presence. In documentation of the work, the woman depicted is forever waiting to sell you a ticket. NiNA was included in “Un Ticket Pour La Suite,” Blatrix’s 2014 exhibition at Balice Hertling Gallery, Paris. As indicated in the show’s title, the ticket for later is perhaps never bought or used, while the attendant waits for you to decide.
FLEETING FEELINGS AND FRAGMENTED MOMENTS ARE EMBLAZONED IN ELUSIVE, EMOTIONAL OBJECTS
In Alison, 44-19 Purves Street, Long Island City, NY 11101 (2014), Blatrix uses the physical address of the SculptureCenter as the destination for a letter sent from Alison to Nina—characters that consistently reappear in his works. To receive the correspondence, Blatrix made a mailbox housing a large wooden letter, inlaid with an image of a man’s legs, posed on the water’s shore and missing one shoe, a Starbuck’s cup spilled at his feet. The letter offers a clue to the exchange between the sender and the recipient, an emotional chord touching on despondency. Periodically, a melancholy song would emit from the smiley face cut into the stainless steel opening: a reminder not to shoot the messenger.
In Blatrix’s latest series, the function of the objects is abstracted further. His new series of sculptures embrace nonsense, as sentimental objects with no clear feeling or function, with titles such as (1) skin and (2) tears. Resembling a musical and/or measuring instrument, or even a game, some of the sculptures include wood inlay images, with details such as a finger pricked and bleeding or a man’s eye shedding a single tear, each suggesting a painful sensation. For She (2015), Blatrix continues his examination into the life and personality of transitional objects, most notably house keys. Made of silver and synthetic ivory, a bent key sits on a large plinth. The synthetic ivory frames a woman’s face etched into the silver, an anthropomorphizing move that puts a posture into the key—a universal tool with deeply personal resonance. Like many of Blatrix’s work, the object has its own life, even as it supports those of the individuals who use it.
Camille Blatrix (French, b. 1984) is an artist who lives and works in Paris. He is represented by Balice Hertling, Paris. Blatrix’s solo exhibition “Hero” is currently on view at CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco, through 19 November. This fall, he will show at Balice Hertling, Paris, and feature in the biennial “Ateliers de Rennes.”
Ruba Katrib is the Curator at SculptureCenter in Long Island City, New York, where she has organized solo shows by Anthea Hamilton, Magali Reus and Michael E. Smith, as well as group shows including “Puddle, Pothole, Portal” (2014, co-curated with artist Camille Henrot) and “Better Homes” (2013).
Portrait by Léonard Méchineau