The works of Julien Boudet glisten with the sheen of consumerism. Working across sculpture, installation and photography, Boudet displaces indexes of capitalist desire, reconfiguring them into minimalist compositions. References to art history, hip hop, sports and fashion are magnified, contained, and ultimately transformed through the artist’s adroit interventions. Motorized vehicles—those vessels of freedom, or to be more specific, of the free market—often figure centrally in his work.
Previously, Boudet has mined luxury cars and fashion labels for their semiotic potency, layering the logos of the latter on top of the former to incantatory effect. In his new sculptural and photographic works, logos retain their significance but find expression through different forms. The exhibition’s title, “23:46,” indicates the numbers of the sportstars Michael Jordan and Valentino Rossi, respectively. Both athletes are regarded as icons within their fields of basketball and motorcycle racing, and both have acquired that near-impossible status: “household name.”
Yet, aside from a single photograph that spotlights a cardboard cut-out of Michael Jordan, the athletes themselves are markedly absent from the works on display. Instead, the titular numbers usurp their identities, functioning as floating signifiers that find curious homes. Whether engraved onto a goat figurine or adhered to a plastic disc, “23” and “46” appear on most every piece. These markers of success, mass-distributed and bound to steel and hard plastic, evoke the naturalization of celebrity into the media landscape.
Many of the objects upon which the numbers appear assume the form of totems. Just as traditional totems represent and venerate elements of tribal mythos, so, too, do Boudet’s totems represent and venerate elements of contemporary mythos. These sculptures are composed of motorcycle parts, a machine with which Boudet is intimately familiar. In one such work, Equilibre, motorcycle tanks are stacked on top of one another, stretching heavenwards. Other sculptures re-assemble various parts into deity-like figures. These works consecrate the bits of machinery, gesturing toward the powerful, ever-accelerating churn of industrial and cultural production.
In “23:46,” the extreme speed and height attained by Rossi and Jordan are posited as motivational, even transcendent; the dream of socioeconomic ascension through sports is cast into sharp relief. But Boudet does not offer criticism, suggesting instead that such mythos-building is an intuitive, transhistorical facet of the human condition. He obscures the barriers between the natural and manufactured, the past and present—employing a light, often humorous touch throughout.
-- Caroline Reagan