CREATIVE FUSION: The City as a Setting – Guillaume Leblon / Paris, France

What follows is excerpted from a phone interview.


Guillaume Leblon, Coke, mangemerde et suspicions, 2017, Aluminium, steel, plexiglass, hand blown opal glass. Courtesy: gallery Jocelyn Wolff, Paris. Photo credit: Francois Doury.

Guillaume Leblon, Coke, mangemerde et suspicions, 2017, Aluminium, steel, plexiglass, hand blown opal glass. Courtesy: gallery Jocelyn Wolff, Paris. Photo credit: Francois Doury.

Guillaume Leblon’s art defies categorization. Known for working in many different mediums from paintings to film, hand-blown glass, and everything in between, perhaps his most successful medium is working with space itself. The spaces he creates often feel uneasy, unfinished, alienating – once Leblon moved a wall from inside the gallery outside onto the sidewalk, leaving the artwork exposed to the elements, and the gallery-goer forced to take part in this odd viewing experience. Leblon’s work continually challenges the sanctity of the austere spaces inside institutions of art. As one of FRONT’s Madison Residents, supported by the Cleveland Foundation, Leblon is developing plans for his work as part of the Summer 2018 exhibition, and considering venues all over Cleveland. CAN Journal had the chance to speak to the artist over the phone about his upcoming project.


CAN: So how did you hear about FRONT? What made you decide to participate in its inaugural year?

Leblon: “I met Michelle (Grabner) a few years ago, and last year she came to my studio–not because of FRONT, but just to be friendly. We have worked together in the past. So yes, it was through that connection. And for me it was also attractive because I don’t know this part of the US and Cleveland for me, it has always sounded familiar – I knew the name, but I don’t really know Cleveland.”

CAN: So that leads to my next question, I understand that you recently visited – what did you think?

LB: “I have to say it was very difficult to connect the city – you know, the two parts of the city, the East and West side, it seemed to me that all these parts were very separated. I was very surprised by all these little areas – each is like a city in itself, it’s very difficult to connect everything together and I think you need some time to understand it.”

CAN: You’re doing one of the Madison Residencies, so how much time will you be spending in Cleveland?

LB: “I came for a week already, and I’m coming for two weeks soon because I have to meet up with the people that I am working with. We have to figure out the best moment – the winter is quite, well, you know what it’s like…”

CAN: Yes, it’s pretty rough.

LB: “So we have to find the best moment. You know, I really liked the part of Cleveland where there is water and trains, a lower spot…”

CAN: Oh, yes, the Flats?

LB: “Yes, the Flats exactly – That is an interesting area.”

CAN: Well, have you chosen a site for your project?

LB: “It’s not easy to find a spot where you can get permission from the owner to open their space. I looked at some locations in Glenville (near the PNC Glenville Arts Campus). There is a church which was very nice, with a gym behind it. Another spot is the library, which is also very close. Somewhere in that neighborhood.

CAN: Are you working with other Madison Residents or will you be doing a solo installation?

LB: “I’m working solo, but with a researcher from Cleveland – who proposed a play by a French writer, which will involve Cleveland actors.”

CAN: Oh excellent, so you’ll be designing the set, I mean the site itself, and the performances will be in that space?

LB: “Yes.”

CAN: That’s interesting because I’ve always thought of your work as very stage-like, and that the spaces you create are in a sense activated by the viewers moving through them. Will working on a play be different because generally the movements of the actors are all pre-determined?

LB: “It affects the rhythm. I will say I don’t really let the viewer do what they want to do. In general, moving in these spaces is usually kind of dry you know, in a museum. Most of the time I use things that lead the viewer through, that tells the viewer how to move. Because my work is less involved with history or background…”

CAN: Because it’s about the moment?

LB: “The present, yes. Exactly. And also, making work for a biennial or triennial is very different when you work in an institution. The institution provides a space – but somehow it kills the freedom of it. When you work in a gallery you have to work around a lot of things, you don’t have the freedom that you do when you pick, like an empty space somewhere..”

CAN: It’s a very controlled environment when you’re in a gallery.

LB: “Exactly… this is why [FRONT] is exciting.”

CAN: We are very lucky to have artists such as yourself experimenting and working in our city this summer.

LB: “Yes, yes, I’m very happy to be part of FRONT.”