Pierre Huyghe at LACMA

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Pierre Huyghe, "Untitled," 2011-2012
Alive entities an dinanimate things, made and not made
Courtesy the artist; Marian Goodman Gallery, New York; and Esther Schipper, Berlin
Comissioned and produced by dOCUMENTA (13)
Fondation Louis Vuitton pour la création, Paris
Ishikawa Collection, Okayama, Japan
© Pierre Huyghe

Everyone sees an art exhibition differently because everyone is different but in the case of Pierre Huyghe, the art is literally different, changing from moment to moment due to the activities of the many natural elements. There is the little white dog with the pink leg, which may or may not be behind a curtain, a beehive swarming with live bees mounted as the head of a reclining female torso, the lobster hidden with a replica of a Brancusi’s sculpture of a woman’s head, Sleeping Muse. This last is in one of a number of large aquariums where rocks appear to float on the surface of the water as well as below with seaweed and creatures in their own self-contained systems, symbolic of the exhibition itself, which is very much a self-contained system.

Installation view of the exhibition, "Pierre Huyghe," at the Centre Georges Pompidou
©Pierre Huyghe, courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
Photo by Arash Nassiri

After appearing at the Pompidou Museum in Paris and the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, the retrospective will be on view at LACMA through February 22, 2015. The first US retrospective of Huyghe can scarcely help be surprising. Though critically acclaimed, it has been difficult to get a sense of the artist’s work in totality. Organized here by LACMA curator Jarrett Gregory with Nancy Meyers, it abides by the artist’s desire to create experience rather than present a string of greatest hits. It includes work made by the artist, 51, over the past 20 years but nothing has a wall label and it is not installed chronologically.

Pierre Huyghe, film still from "Untitled (Human Mask)," 2014
Courtesy the artist; Marian Goodman Gallery, New York; Hauser & Wirth, London;
Esther Schipper, Berlin; and Anna Lena Films, Paris
©Pierre Huyghe

Huyghe rejects the traditional notion of development in an artist’s career and, in fact, rejects the very notion of linear time. This apparent absence of control actually dictates greater control in that involved viewers are compelled to spend more time in his show and pay more attention. Films play continuously, most with thoughtful benches for prolonged viewing. His most recent 2014 Untitled (Human Mask) features a trained monkey wearing the mask of a Japanese woman with long black hair. The monkey sort of ambles about in a gentle and bemused manner doing little monkey things that prove strangely evocative.

Installation view of the exhibition, "Pierre Huyghe," at the Centre Georges Pompidou
©Pierre Huyghe, courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
Photo by Ola Rinda

Huyghe may be the inheritor of Duchampian ideas about art but he has refined them for 21st century sensibilites. And yet, one comes away with an overall impression that lies in the realm of poetry and dreams. The work isn’t an easy read but it is a thoroughly enjoyable one. Take your time. For more information, go to lacma.org.

Pierre Huyghe, "Zoodram 5," 2011
Live Marine Ecosystem aquarium, resin mask after Constantin Brancusi's Sleeping Muse (1910)
©Pierre Huyghe
Photo by Guillaume Ziccarelli