Lionel Estève earned worldwide recognition with his spider-like mobiles, which are like lightweight, floating sculptures. He managed to revive the genre popularized by Calder with his giant tops, which are embroidered as much as they are sculpted. His constructions weave links between the United States and Europe, much like the cables of a suspension bridge. Since the “Migrateur” exhibition organized by Hans-Ulrich Hobrist at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 2003, he has participated every year in major international events: his work was shown in Basel at “Art Unlimited” in 2004, at the Frieze Art Fair in 2005 and last year at the Herzilya Museum of Art in Israël. PS1 was the first American installation to exhibit his work, for the “Generation Z” group show in 1999.
For his first exhibition in Miami, he is showing fifty drawings in a distinctive genre. The “Pistil” originated this last summer in flower-filled fields. The walls, saturated with a translucent and luminous veil, form a frieze that encircles the gallery. Covered with drawings, it is transformed into a rural fresco, inspired as much by plant motifs as by stained-glass windows. The décor hangs horizontally, and is anchored on the picture rails. The monumentality and intricacy of this tapestry form the two beacons in this exhibition organized in the shape of a cross-stitch—as Lionel Estève’s drawings are inspired as much from sewing as from sculpture.
Blocked between two transparent sheets, they capture threads, disks, feathers and other simple cast-offs in geometric, psychedelic, dream-like and pop arabesques. These nets—another of the artist’s favorite materials—have trapped recycled objects that must be both lightweight and delicate. The plastic film is a shore that organizes and stacks up the flotsam of successive tides. Treasures wash up on its surface, which is as smooth as a sticker. Initially, a pattern was sketched on the back, to orient the artist’s hand. The design was drawn using surgeon’s clips and forceps. The square sheets pile up and form chapters in a giant herbarium. Anti-UV and with a neutral pH, they enclose beads that are visible through a captive transparency. A tailor more than a draftsman, the artist has woven a coherent work of white thread, a recurrent theme in his structured output.
There remains from his mobiles a penchant for organizing space and playing with light. An artist who works with the space in between, he changes styles with ease, moving from forceful demonstrations to fragility. Massive and spider-like, his work measures the gaps, experiments with tensions, keeps visitors at a distance. The drawings are no exception. The small centimeter that separates them from the wall transforms the cast shadow into a cable tightener. The wall becomes a resonance chamber that propagates the pulse given by the rays of light. The drawing’s frame, a glass vice, heightens the effects of light of “Pistil.” It promotes openness, increases palpitations, accentuates the light. The succession of panoramic views and effects of magnification, and the gap between the overall composition and the details of the fresco trigger and reinforce retinal vibrations. The physical and optical effects are based on these variations of scale and produce changes in vision that are like different tempos.
You’ll need patience to make your way through these blooms. Estève’s “Pistils” are mandalas combining the resourcefulness of gleaners, the poetry of recycled materials and the grandeur of cathedrals, blending the natural structure of flowers with the artifice of geometric drawings. It’s the work of a fine craftsman, with precise cutting, mastery of the fabric. The ribbon celebrates the combination of the unique and the other; it encircles the gallery and offers itself like a gift to visitors. -- Pierre Evariste Douaire