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Exhibition review by Emmanuel Posnic
Heidi Wood
Use-by Date
18 October - 20 December 2008
Galerie Anne Barrault, Paris

Painting as a small business? Why not? By inviting us into her gallery dressed up for the occasion as a permanent showroom, Heidi Wood positions her work in the economic circuit where she operates. Displaying the products, selling them or throwing them away: even paintings have a use-by date.

For her third solo exhibition with Anne Barrault, Heidi Wood turns the gallery into a constantly evolving showroom. She regularly renews the "products" (her paintings) seen within. Paintings, wall paintings, wallpaper: everything can be removed and replaced. And if the collector is not hooked yet, the paintings in the exhibition are photographed in situ, i.e. hung in an appealing environment (a corridor, a canteen, etc.)

The motifs in her paintings have an immediate impact, although we are unable to say if they are simple or complex, or even whether they are identifiable signs. They live on monochrome or neutral backgrounds and borrow their forms as much from the world of industrial design as from the abstract esthetic. This double lineage adds a dose of perversity and depth to Heidi Wood's intentions. Not completely removed from the language of contemporary painting and yet already part of the "manufactured" domain. Like an inversion of modernist thinking when it claimed (rightly) that industry has taken its esthetic from 20th century artistic inventions.

Heidi Wood's abstraction is humble, which is one of its great virtues. The paintings in situ mentioned above make this clear. There is also the series of tendenciers (seasonal palettes for the fashion industry). These wall paintings (monochrome motifs and backgrounds) that reflect the colors of today's fashion collections, are another way of closing the gap between the artwork and its potential buyer. There is also her "Los Angeles" series: simulations of her forms on advertising billboards juxtaposed with a catchy advertising slogan. The Australian delivers her message with great subtlety. There is a constant mise en abîme of the artwork, or rather, what an artwork can be today given the places where it is produced, exhibited or seen, on a journey that incorporates economic factors.

Ultimately, contemporary art is not sheltered from consumer society. It has mercantile potential, with its own sales networks, decision-makers, leaders, customers and marketing. Denying this means losing touch with reality. Denying this also means dismissing art's critical capacity to turn the situation to its advantage.

Heidi Wood adopts the reality principle, with the detachment she is known for and her way of infiltrating industrial production all the better to mock it. She takes on its norms, design and sales techniques to reveal its clichés. Above all, she unabashedly considers contemporary art's links with other areas, harnessed, as it is, to a mercantile future. In short, a true sociological undertaking.

Translated from French