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CÉDRIC RIVRAIN – POUSSIÈRE

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The portraits look at us, the animals stare at us. In their eyes runs the same opaque gleam, which we cannot determine whether it betrays a surge of tenderness or the secret of a wound, whether it calls or dreads. — Rodrigue Fondeviolle*

 

 

Since the beginning of his career, Cédric Rivrain has used the portrait as his principal subject of study whether he creates portraits of friends, family, or imaginary people. In that sense Rivrain’s artistic practice is very much anchored in the antic myth of Botades, where the original function of the portrait was to render absence present. With Poussière [Dust], his first exhibition presented in Los Angeles with the gallery Fitzpatrick, Paris, he continues his pursuit of the ineffable image. The artist intentionally threads fiction to better recall souvenirs of stealthy moments of life and lost encounters with passers-by. The gallery of portraits presented here read like a James Joyce novel—a modern coming-of-age tale and the discovery of what makes it unconventional.

 

 

 

In a deserted mid-century bungalow that sits like a transparent box at the top of Laurel Canyon, we are welcomed by two portraits of young men behind a window, in their underwear. One of whom Rodrigue à la fenêtre / Rodrigue at the window(2024) is Rivrain’s lover in real life. But let’s not be distracted, and instead look into the story offered here before our eyes. It’s not clear if these two figures are waving at us, the audience, or just wandering in their own thoughts like prisoners behind bars. Standing in the main room surrounded by a few large paintings, we discover characters staged in similar situations. In Trois figures / Three figures (2024), a small group of lesbigay people are squatted in front of a closed window. This time the perspective is taken from the interior and creates a feeling of confinement. Same with Porte-Fenêtre / French Window (2023), where two individuals placed in a bedroom try to open a French door to find themselves halfway blocked by pulled down blinds. In Passagers (Avion) / Passengers (Airplane) (2024), a young man gazes through the aircraft window. Suddenly, the opening that lets us see through is tiny in proportion of the rest of the colorless painting, on the right-hand corner of which the word NUITS (nights) is painted in large black letters. The circumstances of the scene unfolding in front of our eyes feels unresolved: Is the person stranded on the ground or ready to take off for the night? Rivrain is a playful artist. He likes to blur the lines and create unspoken situations. With Simon au miroir / Simon at the Mirror (2024), we come face to face in the narrow corridor with a juvenile boy in his Calvins. The boy holds a smartphone in his right hand. At first sight we feel he’s shooting us. But the more we seek details (especially the reversed logo on his underwear) the better we understand that, in fact, he’s looking at a mirrored door taking a selfie with his left hand.

 

 

 

The navigation of the exhibition between the various interior / exterior perspectives in the work is accentuated by the way the paintings are hung against clear windows, the same windows that give view to a luxurious garden outside. The glowing green found in the surroundings delicately offsets the shades of charcoal gray, light blue, and dusty white encompassed in the paintings. One can wonder how much pleasure the artist must have had to arrange these see-through layers within this jewel box environment. The smaller second room, an intimate wood-paneled bedroom, is opaque and displays small classical portraits of the artist’s friends such as Hugo (2024), Leilha (2024), DeSe & Serenity (2024), and Akeem (2024). Interspersed throughout are a few portraits of animals depicted in incongruous situations with domestic objects like a naked power strip in Cygne et multiprise / Swan and Power strip (2024), a bulb without its lampshade in Bébé singe / Baby Monkey (2024), and an empty rack of clothes in Grande Chauve-souris (Big Bat) (2023). Again we find ourselves imagining the type of excitement which must have guided the artist to bring these surprising mammals on the ride along with the only self-portrait of the artist titled Bouche fermée (Autoportrait) / Closed Mouth (Self-Portrait) (2024).

 

 

 

Ultimately, we leave the place with a sense of wonder and amusement. After all, despite these abundant displays of flesh and body, the artist remains veiled in mystery, and the queerness and privacy of appearances distills through the air a feeling of enchanted appeasement. Bringing to the mind one last interrogation—could these collections of studies be summarized in a portrait of the artist as a young man? Dorothée Perret

 

 

*Rodrigue Fondeviolle, excerpt from the text of the exhibition Poussière.

Cédric Rivrain, Poussière, installation views, from top: Rodrigue à la fenêtre / Rodrigue at the window, 2024 (left) and Nassim à la fenêtre / Nassim at the window, 2024; Porte-Fenêtre / French Window, 2023; Passagers (Avion) / Passengers (Airplane), 2024; Trois figures / Three Figures, 2024; Simon au miroir / Simon at the Mirror, 2024; Hugo, 2024; DeSe & Serenity, 2024; Bébé singe / Baby Monkey, 2024; Bouche fermée (Autoportrait) / Closed Mouth (Self-Portrait), 2024.

Images courtesy and © Cédric Rivrain and Fitzpatrick Gallery, Paris.