Abigail DeVille

Michel Rein Paris/Brussels

November 6, 2015

Abigail DeVille

October 22–December 19, 2015 

Michel Rein
42 rue de Turenne 
75003 Paris

T +33 1 42 72 68 13
galerie [​at​] michelrein.com


“In the way the Big Bang theory serves as a cosmological model for the history of the universe, works by Abigail DeVille weave together temporal and spatial deviations to deliver new models for its future.” –Nico Wheadon

For her second solo exhibition at Michel Rein gallery (after Beyond the Veil, 2012), Abigail DeVille pays homage to America and to those who created it—from pre-Columbian cultures to slaves of African origin, via French overseas colonies through to invisible minorities of today. In order to do this, she radically modifies the exhibition space: “What I want is to disrupt the spaces that welcome my works.” In order to build, one must destroy, recover and change abandoned objects surrounding us in order to see them in a new light.

Drawing inspiration from Mayan pyramids, DeVille scatters the space with pyramidal structures rising from the ground or falling from the ceiling. Are these structures under construction or, on the contrary, traces of a long forgotten past? In this way, she indicates that for this project, “all of the Americas are united at every period in time.” The formal language of the artist is like a secret code for which the key has not yet been found, between archaic forms and afro-futurist symbols. It’s about “transforming space in a territory”: a symbolic way of winning back entire neighbourhoods, particularly those of Afro-American tradition, currently being transformed by gentrification.

In her sculptures, installations and environments, the artist therefore questions everyone’s place in society, but focuses above all on the absence of place that some fall victim to: those that society cannot or will not see, the excluded, whoever they are. Abigail DeVille is an archaeologist of daily life, digging out from amongst our waste a perfect definition of society, even while her immersive and proliferating works are post-apocalyptic in appearance.

These site-specific creations, taking deeply into account the context with which they are met, speak an urban language: that of deprived neighbourhoods, of poverty and the struggle of minorities to exist. However, it’s also a theatrical work, staging current problems. Her constructions are all pretences of archaeological research, rich in historical, cultural and societal references, whereas her opaque installations are the reflection of repression and discrimination issues.

The artist uses architectural debris or domestic waste—whatever the street gives to her, she gives it back a hundredfold with her punchy works. As she puts it, “I’m interested in telling invisible histories, about groups of people that occupy the space that no longer exists.” The magic of her work will maybe allow visitors, through a space-time short circuit, to steal a glimpse of these people and places, today disappeared to our eyes.

Daria de Beauvais, curator, Palais de Tokyo – September 2015

Abigail DeVille was born in 1981 in New York, where she lives and works. She graduated from the University of Yale (MFA, 2011) and from the New York Fashion Institute of Technology (BFA, 2007). Her projects are regularly displayed in the USA and in Europe. Some of her recent exhibitions are: From the Ruins… (601Artspace, New York, 2015), Outside the Lines (Contemporary Art Museum Houston, 2014), Puddle, pothole, portal (Sculpture Center, New York, 2014), Playing with Fire: Political Interventions, Dissident Acts, and Mischievous Actions (El Museo del Barrio, New York, 2014), Bronx Calling (Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, 2013), Future Generation Art Prize (Venice, 2013 and Kiev, 2012), Fore (Studio Museum, New York, 2012), and The Ungovernables (Triennal at the New Museum, New York, 2012). The artist has notably won many prizes and residencies.