My jewels are propositions. From the outset, this involves making an object that constructs itself out of many different things, and that sometimes ends up surpassing even what I had imagined for it. It is no longer primarily an accessory; it becomes something larger. It speaks about concept and form as opposed to objective value. It becomes sculpture.
—Victoire de Castellane
Gagosian New York is pleased to announce an exhibition of recent works by Victoire de Castellane at the Madison Avenue fourth floor galleries, following the acclaimed "Fleurs d'excès" at Gagosian Paris in 2011. This is her first exhibition in New York.
De Castellane uses materials like no one before her. Her work puts nature and artifice into animated play, aided by a wacky irreverence that sets her apart in her field. In animalvegetablemineral, she engages with the essential qualities of classic jeweler's materials. Inspired by the popular game that derives from Linnaeus's taxonomy of the natural world, she has chosen precious stones for their sheer presence—from flawless brilliant-cut diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, and rubies to opals like free-shaped holograms. For the settings, pure gold is masked by lacquer in alien hues and textures—cyborg blooms in shiny bubblegum pink or sparkling galactic indigo. Heavily contoured bases, sand-cast in solid silver, are inspired by the manmade “rocher des singes” (monkey rock) at the Bois de Vincennes. They provide foils for darkly venomous jeweled serpents (Lunae Lumen Holly Colorum, Lunae Lumen Satine Mummy Blue), best viewed, according to de Castellane, by the light of the moon. In contrast to these nocturnal creatures, a group of bright vegetal hybrids sprout from mirror-polished silver droplets (Poppy Tomato Baby, Cana Glitter Night Baby, Crystal Shocking Pink Baby). In the mineral group, faceted silver blocks, produced with the aid of digital prototyping, cradle dazzling parures made entirely of diamonds, ice-white or in all the colors of the rainbow (Vitam Industria Abstract Sugar, Vitam Industria Abstract Multi Candy). In each, the tilting planes of the silver base refract the jewels and ambient light to confounding effect. Object and base merge and dissolve, as if alluding to the processes of geological evolution by which brute carbon transforms into precious stone.
To introduce de Castellane's independent oeuvre to New York, highlights from her extraordinary debut series Fleurs d'excès (2011) will also be on view. In this series, she tells a story of women under the influence of hallucinatory drugs with piquant characters such as Acidea LiLi Pervertus, Opium Velourosa Purpa, and Amanita Satana Diabolus. Each work is a delirium of exotic surface effects, achieved through daring juxtapositions of gems, semi-precious hard stones, and diverse new lacquering techniques developed in the studio.
Indifferent to convention though passionate about history and technical challenge, de Castellane's ideas are driven by her exuberant and restless imagination that derives inspiration from sources as diverse as the élan vital of the natural world and the synthetic wonders of Technicolor; the Brothers Grimm and Walt Disney; Hollywood screen idols and manga characters; the trash and fizz of pop culture and the darkest depths of the subconscious. The resulting forms conflate opposing systems: figurative and abstract, real and artificial, beautiful and grotesque, minimal and excessively baroque. Unprecedented in form and content, de Castellane's extreme and wondrous treasures are spirited ripostes to the perverse times in which we live.
Victoire de Castellane lives and works in Paris. Essentially self-taught—she attempted to make her first piece of jewelry at the age of five—she designed costume jewelry for Chanel for fourteen years. In 1998 she joined Dior as the first Creative Director of their new jewelry department, a role she continues to this day. Her first exhibition, “Belladone Island,” took place in Monet's Water Lilies rooms at L'Orangerie, Paris in 2007.