Fondation des États-Unis | March 8 – 29 : Exhibition – « Symbiosis » by Taylor Smith
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March 8 – 29 : Exhibition – « Symbiosis » by Taylor Smith

Symbiosis is a solo exhibition by the American artist Taylor Smith, currently Harriet Hale Woolley Scholar in residence at the Fondation des États-Unis. This exhibition presents the second set of a new series presented in February at her solo exhibition at the Colegio de España (Végétal / Cérébral : du vivant à l’objet).

“Symbiosis”, is defined in biology as “the living together of two dissimilar organisms (as in mutualism, commensalism, amensalism, or parasitism).” It is also a psychiatric term used to identify “a relationship between two people in which each person is dependent upon and receives reinforcement, whether beneficial or detrimental, from the other” (Cf. Webster’s dictionary). Finally, in psychoanalysis, it reflects the physical and emotional dependence of a child upon its mother. Through her primary medium of abstract painting and collage, Taylor investigates the unlimited possible visual representations of symbiosis.

Through her collaborations with several biologists of the Institut de Biologie at the Ecole Normale Supérieure (Nora Assendorp, Patrick Torbey and Maria Joana Pinto), botanists working in the tropical greenhouse of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris (Karim Benyoub and Bernard Noël), and the American photographer of polluted aerial landscapes J Henry Fair, Taylor investigates the notion of symbiosis on both biological and interpersonal levels, as well as to address the pressing issues of anthropocentrism and sustainable development. During her master’s in cultural mediation at the Ecole du Louvre (completed last year), she also spent two years studying the possible types of symbiotic relationships between the public and works of contemporary art.

The abstract compositions in this exhibition represent a variety of symbiotic relationships, taking the form of parasitism, mutualism, etc., between materials and ideas stemming from both man and nature. By manipulating organic, industrial and recycled materials with color, composition and scale, these paintings attempt to find and reveal the ideal balance for a given situation, between a given set of both “human” and “natural” elements. These elements include everything from Taylor’s bacteria paintings (created using a strain of E coli bacteria called kanamycin to paint on agar gel), oversized tropical aroid leaves (such as philodendron), microscopic images of human synapses and glial cells, aerial images of polluted landscapes and, finally, her personal aerial and close-up photos of nature. The first step in her process is to combine these natural samples (bark, leaves, rocks…) and photographs (of her bacteria paintings, scientific imagery…) to create an image using cyanotype and solarfast methods, printed directly onto her canvas using natural UV light. Taylor then makes recycled paper from collected trash, bark and leaves, in addition to natural paint, using organic pigments (such as Japanese iwa enogu crushed glass pigments and French and Italian earth pigments) and linseed oil. She combines these paints and papers with monotype and screen prints, as well as traditional Chinese and Japanese rice papers, collectively painted and collaged onto the initial cyanotype layer to create the final composition.

The act of creating so-called symbiotic relationships between a wide range of materials and imagery ties directly into Taylor’s conceptual musings on how such contrasting elements can co-exist within a single composition, or a single world. She draws on the theories of primarily scientists, landscape experts, philosophers, sociologists, psychologists and other artists and art historians including Augustin Berque, Philip Ball, Georges Didi-Huberman, Nathalie Heinich, Alfred Gell and Josef Albers.

About the artist

Taylor Smith (b. 1993, Rochester, New York) received a B.F.A. in Painting and a B.A. in Art History from Boston University in 2015, before completing an M.A. in Cultural Mediation at the École du Louvre in Paris in 2017. She was then awarded the Harriet Hale Woolley Scholarship by the Fondation des États-Unis (2017-2018). Taylor has participated in several group and solo exhibitions, primarily in Paris and in Boston, in addition to a mural project and residency at the Asociación Atlas for eco-tourism in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain. Via her manipulation of natural processes and organic materials, she investigates the perpetual conflict between nature and cultural production, addressing humans’ insatiable desire to “perfect” their surrounding environment. Taylor is currently collaborating with biologists within the Institut de Biologie of the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, as well as photographers and environmental activists such as J Henry Fair and botanists of the Jardin des Plantes in order to combine organic materials with microscopic and aerial imagery of natural processes of creation and destruction into singular abstract compositions.

Opening hours

Monday to Friday from 10am to 12:30pm and 2:30pm to 6pm.
Evenings or weekends by appointment only: contact@feusa.org

Exceptional Closing Hours
March 8, from 5pm
March 9, from 2pm
March 14, from 2pm
March 22, from 4pm
March 27, from 2pm

The vernissage will take place on Wednesday, March 7 from 7-8:30pm as part of Art-Hop-Polisart hopping at the Cité internationale (Follow our Facebook Page). The detailed program will be soon available on CitéScope.

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