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#art history#fashion#fiber art#Jeanne Vicerial#mythology#sculpture#textiles

Jeanne Vicerial’s Enigmatic ‘Armors’ Evoke Timeless Strength in Elegant Sculptures Made of Thread

April 17, 2023

Kate Mothes

A figurative sculpture made of white thread that resembles a cloak. A cavity in the chest area is made from varnished dried roses.

“Mue n°5 (Amnios).” All photos by Adrien Millot, © Jeanne Vicerial, courtesy of TEMPLON, Paris, Brussels, and New York, shared with permission

Evocative of medieval suits of armor or monastic traditions, Jeanne Vicerial’s intricate sculptures exude quiet strength in thousands of draping threads. The French artist layers halyards, a type of cord used to hoist sails or flags, to outline the curves of figures wearing elegant cloaks, hoods, and shield-like accessories with unraveled coils at their feet. In her series Armors—a play on the French words amour and armure, meaning “love” and “armor,” respectively—she assembles enigmatic garments that await use, as if crystallized over time.

Vicerial was inspired by the Gorgons of Greek mythology, the most famous of which is Medusa, whose hair roiled with snakes and turned anyone who looked at them into stone. “The idea was to insert myself into that great mythological story but to suspend its time, making it impossible to define the time or place where they were born,” the artist tells Colossal. She leaves the wearers’ identities open to interpretation, allowing the viewer to imagine the possibilities of their histories or purposes.

Drawing on her background in fashion and textiles, Vicerial was originally interested in studying the male figure and clothing. She began to focus on expressions of the female form when she participated in a year-long residency at Villa Medici in Rome and was struck by the way women have been represented throughout art history. “When I looked at the sculptures in the Villa’s park and saw the Venuses with their wet drapery, the representations of women in lascivious postures with draped cloth that always seems to be accidentally slipping off, I decided to focus again on the female body,” she says. Vicerial turns the ancient trope on its head by emphasizing garments as protective coverings that beget a formidable presence, merely hinting at the figure beneath.

A figurative sculpture made from black threads and cord that unravel and drape from the face and arms.

“Puppa n°1”

Describing the works as “guardians,” Vicerial provokes subtle associations with medieval European burials of knights and nobles, Japanese samurai armor, or nuns’ habits. She sometimes places varnished flowers like roses into cavities located where a metal chest plate would have protected one’s vital organs in combat. Like portals glimpsing a mysterious interior, they highlight the body’s vulnerability.

Blurring the boundary between fashion and sculpture, the phantom-like works are devoid of facial expressions. Long threads cascade from headdresses, shoulders, and faces illustrating dignity and vulnerability, and the spectral, imposing armors are “protections that express a form of power, but that are in reality extremely fragile because they are made only of threads,” she says, underlining the dubious tension between strength and weakness. “To touch them is in a way to destroy them because they could never be presented in the same way again.”

Armors comprised a recent exhibition with TEMPLON. If you’re in Paris, you can find Vicerial’s work in the group exhibition Des cheveux et des poils at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs through September 17. Follow updates about forthcoming shows and new works on the artist’s Instagram. (via .able)

A detail of the torso of an abstract figurative sculpture made from black thread and cord.

Detail of “Puppa n°1”

An abstract figurative sculpture of a head and cape-like shoulders with long strands of unravelled thread draping from the bottom.

“Encéphale n°1”

A group of three figurative sculptures made from white thread. The middle figure is about twice as tall as the two that flank it. Pools of unravelled thread sit at the feet of each.

“Catula Présence”

Two images of the same sculpture. On the left, a detail of a figurative sculpture made of black thread with a cloak or hood. On the right, the full length view of the sculpture showing a pool of unravelled thread at its feet.

Left: Detail of “Présence à l’enfant.” Right: “Présence à l’enfant”

A sculpture made of white thread, installed on a black box against a black background. It suggests an abstract feminine figure lying on a sarcophagus such as a Medieval knight would have been interred in. A pile of unravelled thread pools at the bottom.

“Gisante de Coeur”

A detail of a figurative sculpture made from white thread. It appears to be lying on a black box, on a pillow.

Detail of “Gisante de Coeur”

Two images of the same sculpture. On the left, an overview of the sculpture which suggests a figurative form made from black thread with lots of draping cords and unravelled strings. On the right, a detail of the torso area shows braids of black thread and a group of gold-painted dried roses.

Left: “Mue n°1.” Right: Detail of “Mue n°1”

A figurative sculpture made from white thread, photographed on a black background. The sculpture features long threads draping down from the face and arms, and there is a tall, curving headdress on top.

“Puppa n°4”

A figurative sculpture made from white thread, shown at three-quarter view and appears to be kneeling in contemplation.

“Mue n°5 (Amnios)”

#art history#fashion#fiber art#Jeanne Vicerial#mythology#sculpture#textiles

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