The Curious and Enigmatic Allure of Les Lalanne
CRITICS OFTEN FOCUS ON the timelessness of the work of the French husband and wife duo known as Les Lalanne. But there is another way to look at the work, that their real achievement was to embrace those universal (and timeless) forms in order to infuse them with iconoclasm and imagination. The show of their work on view through April 22 at the Paul Kasmin Gallery on Tenth Avenue in New York is an homage to François-Xavier Lalanne who died in 2008 and a celebration of his widow, Claude Lalanne. Respecting the couple’s independence and distinction from one another, their sculptural objects are on display in adjoining rooms which allows you to get a sense of their differing but overlapping sensibilities.
Francois-Xavier was best known for his surreal and smartly debonair animal objects. His epoxy-and-bronze Mouton sculptures made an impact in 2013 when a flock of them they were installed enigmatically at a Getty gas station at 24th Street and Tenth Avenue. One of those sheep stands its ground in the gallery, seemingly a visitor from long-ago pastoral times. Equally mysterious, Hippopotame II, constructed in bronze, stainless steel, copper, and wood, shares the zoological dream space. When all its compartments are opened, the hippopotamus stretches over seven feet, nose to rump and almost five feet off the ground, and is intended for use as a full-sized bar with interior shelving and storage space.
Claude Lalanne’s objects—candelabra and chairs, benches and tables—produce a stately sense of reverie. Decorated with molded bronze tendrils, leaves, stems, and twigs inspired from her garden as well as an occasional draping crocodile skin, the furniture pieces stand far outside of the trends of our time and yet they’re stubbornly modern. The framework and branches that crisscross underneath her streamlined square table bring to mind the delicate legs of a Giacometti figure.
Perhaps the highlight of the show is the splendid mirror with candle holders, nine and a half feet tall, which she constructed for her friend and client Yves Saint Laurent and it’s more than obvious what they shared in terms of an absolutely contemporary classicism and respect for materials.