Said a bubblegum-pink feathery bear to Milanese artist Paola Pivi: “When was the first time you watched the world upside down?” She replied in her elegant Italian accent: “I don’t remember, but it must be when I’m a child and I lie down on the grass.”
So commenced an existential conversation between Pivi and her neon bears, which were installed in 2013 at Emmanuel Perrotin’s Madison Avenue gallery, an outpost of the Paris flagship, which has also exhibited the artist’s work. The conversation was the idea of L’Officiel Italia editor at large Ivan Olita — he served as the fictitious voice of the ursine protagonist and was the source of the questions — and the whole bit was filmed for nowness.com.
The two-minute exchange is an arnalgamation of oddities worthy of Lewis Carroll: There is wit (silliness, really), intellectual depth and loads of bizarre surrealism. But perhaps that is Pivi’s whole purpose: to create work that in a puzzling way makes us laugh, consider our deepest thoughts and stretch our imaginations as we did when we were children.
If a friendly-looking polar bear cloaked in fluorescent quills asked you a question, what would you say in return?
Pivi, who works and lives in Anchorage with her songwriter-husband Karma Lama Culture Brothers, is famous for her imaginative multimedia installations — from these endearing polar bears, which are fashioned in myriad colors and expressions, to a public work in New York City called “How I roll (2012),” in which a Piper Seneca airplane rotated on its wingtips at the Doris C. Freedman Plaza near Central Park. “More than feelings,” says Pivi, “I hope to trigger a reaction so the person can think like a supersonic thinker.”
This month, she brings her carnival of artful oddities to Texas, first by way of Galerie Perrotin, a protean force that’s returning again to the Dallas Art Fair. The gallery’s eminent French proprietor (the aforementioned Emmanuel Perrotin) is known for many things: mounting artist Damien Hirst’s first commercial solo exhibition, representing sculptor Daniel Arsham (one third of the trio creating Soluna’s attention-grabbing “Rules of the Game” performance next month) and promoting pop star Pharrell Williams when he designed a chair in collaboration with Domeau & Pérès. For the Dallas Art Fair, Perrotin will bring a collection of Pivi’s latest sculptural works.
On Friday evening, April 15, the day after the Art Fair’s VIP preview party, Pivi will be lauded at the Dallas Contemporary during the opening celebration of her exhibition. Justine Ludwig, the Contemporary’s senior curator and director of exhibitions, does curatorial honors. The artist’s solo, one of three one-person debuts that evening at the Contemporary (the others being eagerly anticipated exhibitions for Helmut Lang and Dan Colen), will remain on view through late August.
Ludwig tells us that Pivi will display her beloved feather bears, canvases of cascading pearls and photographs of animals in peculiar situations, plus new works and two large-scale installations. It’s destined to be a perfect mix of the absurd and the beautiful that will inspire whimsy in its purest form — something both art and life can always use much more of.
Solo Exhibitions for Paola Pivi, Dan Colen and Helmut Lang, April 16 – August 21, at the Dallas Contemporary; Opening Celebration Friday, April 15, for museum members only; memberships 214.821.2522 or dallascontemporary.org.