A rereading of the prematurely interrupted work of the Franco-Israeli artist Absalon (1964-1993) through the notions of body, performance and illness, detaching him from the architectural and post-minimal field in which he has often been included, proposing new interpretations via a selection of works by other artists of his generation and a network of conceptual and formal affinities.
is the catalog of the eponymous exhibition presented at the Capc Musée d'art contemporain de Bordeaux in 2021. The exhibition brings Absalon closer to several of his contemporaries, including Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Robert Gober or Marie-Ange Guilleminot, and makes associations by affinity with works by Mona Hatoum, Alain Buffard
, Laura Lamiel
and Myriam Mihindou.
This book is also the only monograph currently in circulation on the work of Absalon, since the catalog of the KunstWerke of Berlin ten years ago. The catalog Absalon Absalon
is not only a documentation of the exhibition, including many installation views, but also an extension of the project, through the publication of a set of unpublished documents of Absalon: artist's texts, archival photographs, transcript of a conference. The catalog is accompanied by an essay by curators Guillaume Désanges and François Piron, as well as an interview with art historian Elisabeth Lebovici
, which renews the approach to this work from a contemporary perspective.
Absalon (Meir Eshel) was born in Ashdod in Israel
in 1964. After resigning from his military service, Meir Eshel settled in Paris in 1987 where, on his uncle's advice, he enrolled with the art critic Jacques Ohayon, in Christian Boltanski
's workshop at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. The collector and art history teacher Jacques Ohayon was also a flamboyant and subversive figure in Paris nightlife.
That same year, Meir took the name Absalon, inspired by a an Old Testament narrative, involving the story of a rebellious son who was eventually vanquished and murdered. So a name associated with the idea of revolt, but also with tragic fate.
When Absalon, encouraged by an ever larger fan club, started to show his work, swiftly enjoying critical acclaim, he was accepted at the Institut des Hautes Etudes en Arts Plastiques, an annual programme run by the former director of the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Pontus Hulten, and by the artists Daniel Buren
. There, Absalon met in particular Michael Asher
, who subsequently had a considerable influence on his work.
When he started to work with the Chantal Crousel
gallery in Paris in 1990, he moved to a studio in Boulogne, built by Le Corbusier
for the artist Jacques Lipchitz in 1924.
In January 1993, he held a major solo exhibition at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, organized by Béatrice Parent and Angeline Scherf. In it he showed the prototypes of his Cellules/Cells
, white constructions built based on the proportions of measurements of the artist's body and designed to be installed in six different cities for living in. Designed as "mental spaces" by Absalon, the Cells
define a form of life based on resistance, habits, mechanisms and constraints, as forms not of alienation but of emancipation. What was involved, for Absalon, was living on his own terms by shedding assigned identities.
In October 1993, aged 28, Absalon died from the consequences of the Aids virus
, before he could complete his project.