Art Collecting

The Pace Gallery ends its run in Palo Alto with an exhibition of paintings by Brice Guilbert | news | Pro Club Bd

One could imagine that growing up on a small island whose most notable geographical feature is an active volcano would induce feelings of fear and insecurity. Not so the artist Brice Guilbert, who has fond memories of his childhood on the island and the volcano, which has become the main inspiration for his oil stick-on-wood paintings.

Bruce Guilbert: Fournez is on view at Pace Gallery through September 2 and will be the final exhibition at the West Coast outpost of the New York-based conglomerate.

The exhibition consists of four large-scale canvases and a number of smaller works, all of which appear to depict the same thing, namely a volcano in the process of erupting. Although the subject may be the same, each painting has a different color palette, ranging from soft pastels to very bold, deep tones. Guilbert was in Palo Alto for the show’s installation and provided some background on his working method and muse, the Piton de la Fournaise, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

The volcano is located on the island of Réunion, a French department in the Indian Ocean. Its main claim to fame (besides idyllic beaches) is as a climbing destination. The draw for rock climbers is the Piton de la Fournaise, which measures over 8,000 feet. Guilbert spent his youth in the southern part of the island and says because he never saw an eruption, “I drew the volcano to my imagination”.

Even after he left Réunion to attend high school in France, the lure of his childhood memories kept pulling him back. “I always work with my roots, my childhood,” he said. Guilbert, who currently lives in Brussels, said the volcano’s depiction also has a practical basis: “By painting fire while living in a cold place, it brings spring into my long winter.”

The paintings vary in size and colour, but all capture a sense of movement and the awe-inspiring power of nature. Some are heavily textured and the layering of color is evident. How Guilbert achieves this is quite unique: he makes his own colored pencils.

“It’s a creative activity,” he said, “like French-Creole cuisine, ‘cooking’ my own tools.” A combination of oil and beeswax, the sticks are custom made for a reason. “I put a lot of beeswax in my mix so the result is matte and not shiny.” Guilbert said he prefers the feel of using a stick rather than a brush. “I like connecting with my hands and not having to hold a brush.” ​​His process also requires him to work with both hands, one holding the dipstick and the other holding a heat gun. “I like to paint fire with fire,” he laughed.

Making his own oil pens also means his colors are very specific to his needs and not limited to what is commercially available. On closer inspection of the paintings painted on wood, it is possible to see layers of pigment on top of each other, resulting in a textured surface.

“I’m trying to find a dialogue with the colors,” he explains. “I never paint the true colors of the volcano,” he said, “every painting is a projection of an idea, a feeling, an effect.”

At the gallery entrance, the large-scale Fournez (all works bear the same title, the island’s name for the volcano) is a powerful, dramatic vision of the force of nature in the form of lava spewing from a dark and menacing peak. “This might be the most literal, photographic version,” Guilbert explained.

The paintings in the main gallery are more subtle in their depiction and rely more on different gradations of color from light to dark. They are both thematically recognizable and abstracted in such a way that the viewer can assign any desired feeling or mood. Guilbert admits that the paintings fill both a need for creation and a return to the past. “They are an excuse to explore painting, color and return to my roots.”

Guilbert said all of the paintings were created specifically for a solo show in Palo Alto, but the timing came as a “surprise.” Exhibitions previously scheduled for this space through the end of the year have been canceled due to the decision, announced last week, to consolidate West Coast operations at Los Angeles’ new Pace Gallery, which opened in April.

The closure of the Palo Alto gallery is a great loss to the peninsula’s cultural community. For the past six years, Pace has presented blue-chip, museum-quality exhibitions that would normally require a trip to a major arts hub like New York City. There have been exhibitions featuring established artists such as Pablo Picasso, Louise Nevelson, Agnes Martin and James Turrell, as well as younger, up-and-coming artists such as Adam Pendleton and Loie Hollowell (both of whom would later find recognition on the international art scene and fetch six figures at auction). After hosting several pop-up shows across the peninsula, Pace got his start in Palo Alto in 2016 with a bang: a massive exhibition of immersive digital art by Japanese collective teamLab that drew over 200,000 visitors.

Over the years the exhibitions have been varied, interesting and well presented. The overall reaction to the closure in the art community was sad. Collector and art advocate Pamela Hornik recalled, “From meeting friends at a Tara Donovan private view to Alex Nemerov speaking about Picasso, Pace has brought museum-quality exhibitions to the Palo Alto community. Liz Sullivan has made Pace a welcoming place.”

Gallerist Pamela Walsh commented, “So sad to hear that Pace is leaving Palo Alto. As a neighbor and art lover, it was a great pleasure to visit the gallery and enjoy each of their exhibitions. I have actually visited the Arlene Shechet exhibition four times and felt more inspired with each visit. Pace presents a level of artistry that is rarely found outside of a major city, so it’s a real loss to the whole community.”

Tempo was an important part of the arts landscape in Palo Alto and will be missed, said Karen Kienzle, director of the Palo Alto Art Center. “We appreciate the collaborative spirit of their wonderful team. A great example is the recent exhibit featuring children’s art from East Palo Alto Charter. I have wonderful personal memories of the incredible recent exhibitions by Pablo Picasso and Louise Nevelson.”

Elise DeMarzio, director of the Palo Alto Public Art Program, shared Kienzle’s opinion, saying, “I would like to add that Pace has been a great partner in public art events like Code:ART, as they provided special experiences and refreshments for the festival visitors and promoted that.” Festival.” She added that one of her personal favorite exhibitions was the JR show, which opened at the same time his large installation went to SFMOMA. “That opening night was a fun, star-studded event that I won’t forget.” , DeMarzio said.

Pace Gallery Vice President Elizabeth Sullivan has led the Palo Alto gallery since it opened. “Pace Palo Alto was a gem of a space to showcase Pace’s lexicon of great artists,” she said via email. “Our space in Palo Alto was very special and we are delighted to have been able to showcase our wonderful exhibits to this beautiful community over the years. We will continue to work with our new partners in Los Angeles to remain committed to the West Coast region and our loyal supporters in the Bay Area.”

Brice Guilbert: Fournez is on view through September 2 at Pace Gallery, 229 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto. Visit for more information.

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