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Le Magicien

“The invisible speaks to us, and the world it paints takes the form of apparitions, it awakens in each of us that yearning for the marvelous and shows us the way back to it.” Alice Rahon, 1951. 

Le Magicien brings into dialogue historical works by Mexican artists Leonora Carrington, Alice Rahon and Francisco Toledo, with an ensemble of new paintings and drawings by Los Angeles based painter Adam Alessi (b. 1994).Following an exhibition held last month in Brussels under the title of Sybil and inspired by French Mexican Surrealist artist and poet Alice Rahon, the presentation at Galeria Mascota continues to delve into Rahon’s enigmatic universe and the shapeshifting character of her work. At the end of the 1940s, after having recently moved from France to Mexico City, Rahon created her only film “Le Magicien”, lost before she ever completed it. Set in a world destroyed by a nuclear war, it told the story of a magician living on the bottom of the sea who was appointed to create a new human. Initially publishing poetry with the support of André Breton and his Editions Surréalistes, it was in Mexico City that Rahon moved towards painting, influenced by its mythology and culture as well as by European paleolithic cave paintings and Navajo sand paintings.

Two paintings and one work on paper here on view offer a closer insight into her talismanic world transcending time and influences. Far away from the strict figuration prevailing at the time, Rahon did not agree with being labelled an abstract painter and insisted on her adherence to Surrealism. She influenced many of her contemporaries, such as her close friend the British-Mexican artist Leonora Carrington, and German artist Wolfgang Paalen – to whom she was formerly married. Her endeavor to manifest the prehistoric, and the application of non-conventional materials and techniques to the canvas such as sand, volcanic stone, and sgraffito, had a lasting impact on Mexican Modernists such as Rufino Tamayo, and a generation later Francisco Toledo. The work on paper here on view by the latter, features imagery from Zapotec folklore and portrays a hatted character ominously looming over a little girl in a cornfield.

This haunting atmosphere, together with the shapeshifting character and sense of mystery emanating from Rahon’s works, are strongly present in the paintings and drawings of Adam Alessi. The dreams more often being nightmares, its characters appear out of nowhere as grinning ghosts from a hazy wash background. Pitchforks are a recurring motif in several of the works, representing the angry mob or a group of townspeople violently chasing someone. These could be seen as retellings of old folk tales recounting the story of freaks or monsters being run out of town. Being surrounded by these works, a general sense of anxiety takes hold of oneself, and one cannot help but wonder if we are being trapped in an uncomfortable time vortex or conversely, if it is the present that makes us that self-conscious. 

The pitchfork drawings are a selection from a larger group obsessively made by Alessi in a single day, which lead directly onto all the paintings in the exhibition. The Riot combines the pitchforks motif with a portrait of an intensely staring vampiresque figure, set onto a background of a cityscape overrun by an angry mob. Another painting of densely overgrown pitchforks uses oil paint from old palettes as well as wax, charcoal and graphite, giving it a gritty sand-like texture. It is this articulation of suggestive representations, by blending figuration and abstraction, as well as the formal experimentation and attention to color and materiality that can also be found in Alice Rahon’s works. But above all it is their shared sense of painting as a key to the invisible and containing the powers of conjuration, stemming from an inner world that can either result in moments of marvel or horror.

Laurence Dujardyn

Adam Alessi 

Born in 1994 in  Los Angeles , CA.

Beginning with a color field or a tenebrous background, Alessi incorporates figures which emerge from his dreams, confronting moments that veer the line between fantasy and nightmare. Rife with art historical references—one might find a corner ornamented with quilted patterns or a sardonic visage that conjures grotesque masks—his work inspires a simultaneous desire to look and repel, perhaps in nostalgia or acknowledgment of the anxieties and comedies that exist in our somnolent and lucid states.

Alessi lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

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