By SHANA NYS DAMBROT May, 2018
I had left the visible, physical blue at the door, outside, in the street. The real blue was inside, the blue of the profundity of space, the blue of my kingdom, of our kingdom! --Yves Klein
Reine Paradis is a living, breathing color story. Her performative, architectural, photography-based works render boundaries between real and unreal obsolete. By effect, her works reveal consciousness as a non-binary continuum, and perception as an utterly malleable matter. But the route she takes to get to that result is a winding, palimpsestic, multi-disciplinary process full of sculpture, design, location scouting, costuming, maquette-making, set and prop production, semiotic theory, and wicked wit. It’s a boisterous and collaborative process, and its foundation is chromatic.
Paradis loves a certain blue above all others. It’s a lot like Yves Klein blue, the hue that defined the practice of one of the great French painters of the last century. Luminous in pigment, and especially so in photographs and light-boxes, this blue is also akin to the eye-massaging default screen on computer monitors, but with a hint more indigo, and therefore mystery. Though Paradis herself strikes theatrical, quirky, comically chic action poses in her tableaux, it is this blue that is the perennial muse and star.
As Paradis works through different series, each with its own key counterpoint color (blinding deep orange, saturated lime, dark crimson), this blue is the constant. In her most recent work, the blue is joined by a certain lime green, a neon hue that radiates light for the blue to absorb and amplify. Whereas the blue is deployed mainly in its rightful, quasi-naturalistic place of sky or perhaps a kind of watery ground, the green performs as clothing, origami props and set pieces, which trace the elements of narrative. It is centrally important to her enterprise that the scenes in Paradis’ images are “really photographed,” which to say, pictures are taken of elaborate optically-charged but fundamentally analog scenarios. Animating her on-location fictions is the figure of the artist herself, the living heroine of her own mechanical story, and another object poised among many.
Baudrillard wrote, “Today abstraction is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being, or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.” That makes sense to Paradis, for whom reality is both elusive and essential. “As child,” she says, “I had trouble telling real from fantasy. I felt objects had spirits and souls and were almost alive, acting in the stories I made for them.” Her father worked as a carpenter and restorer. He had a shelf where he stored every color in boxes of raw pigments. That’s where she discovered and fell in love with the blue. And it’s also where she learned how to build and engineer all the elements of the world she needed to inhabit. “I make every single element and perform them,” she says. “Paintings would not be as real. And reality is important to me."
OPENS JUNE 23, 1028 IN LOS ANGELES
Shana Nys Dambrot is an art critic, curator, and author based in Downtown LA. She is the Arts Editor for the LA Weekly, and a contributor to Flaunt, Art and Cake, Artillery, and Palm Springs Life.
She studied Art History at Vassar College, writes essays for books and catalogs, curates and juries a few exhibitions each year, is a dedicated Instagram photographer and author of experimental short fiction, and speaks at galleries, schools, and cultural institutions nationally. She is a member of ArtTable and the LA Press Club, and sits on the Boards of Art Share-LA and the Venice Institute of Contemporary Art, the Advisory Council of Building Bridges Art Exchange, and the Brain Trust of Some Serious Business.
Photo of Shana Nys Dambrot by Osceola Refetoff
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