press release




Simon Lee Gallery is delighted to announce Mai

Thu Perret’s second solo exhibition and her first at the London gallery .

Mai – Thu Perret creates interdisciplinary works that combine the languages of feminism , politics , theatre, nature, religion and art history.

The exhibiti on Zone expands on Perret’s own fictional narrative The Crystal Frontier , which the artist has been writing since 1999 , that follows a group of women who form a commune New Ponderosa Year Zero in the remote desert of South W estern N ew Mexico, in an attempt to escape capitalism and patriarchal convention . Perret’s new body of work draws on French avant

garde writer and feminist theorist Monique Wittig’s novel Les Guérillères (f irst published in 1969) that imagines a society run by a tribe of warrior lesbian women.

Wittig’s layered , inter connect ed style of writing and Dada collage techniques are referenced in the scale and range of works in this exhibition, reflecting Perret’s interest in f ormal strategies of disruption, combining incongruous elements and materials to explore different histories , political situations and how objects function within and influence the social systems they inhabit. The exhibition’s title Zone can si multaneously refer to a meditative, mindful space and a war zone.

Visitors to the gallery are greeted by an armed , faceless , seated female figure from Perret’s series Les G uérillère s , who seemingly acts as an idle guard over a series of new works, including a ceramic fountain, a wicker sculpture and ceramic wall based reliefs (all 2016) .

Extending a body of work Perret developed for her solo exhibition at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, the figurative sculpture is a direct reference to Wittig’s text and inspired by soldiers in the YPJ, a female

only Kurdish militia currently fighting in the Syr ian civil war . With a body collag ed from papier

m â ch é , found clothes and feet of bronze , this sub j ect resembles a store mannequin or puppet, imply ing animation or movement . Materially reflecting the complexities of individual and collective identity, Les G uérillères also evok es the uncanny formal ruptures employed by Dadaist artists in the aftermath of World War I . Perret’s figure in repose occupies the time and space between action and inaction ; w hilst guns pose a key threat to societies of our time, here this cast resin gun is cand y

like , fetishis ed , temporarily immobilised yet still harbouring potential. W ith a pastel pink circle emblazoned across her face , Perret’s solitary soldier queers our s trategies of perception and the legibility of the objects in the gallery.

Raw Sophie , a n abstract form made f rom wicker , further animates the exhibition . Referencing Sophie Tauber's Dada Heads, this super sized portrait is featureless, mute and locked in silent alterity . As an artist leading the development of modern art in Europe, Ta uber embodies a new vision of the roles of art and women . Perret was drawn to the Heads ’ doll

like shapes , identity free and object

like , with their lack of mouths su mmon ing a “ silent scream in the vacuum of explosive Europe " 1 . Although wicker is a feminized , ancient craft, the scale of the sculpture and its rigorous shape suggest s a vectorized, 3D rendering materialized and further complicates our reading and gendering of objects and technology .

Cera mic wall reliefs run the visual ga mut , from ductile, fluid shapes bearing the imprint of hands and gesture s , to sharp, hard

edge works constructed from diamond shaped geometric forms . Once a gain employing a material associated with craft and immediacy , Perret is interested in how the soft and malleable clay body is transformed by fire into a hard, reflective and impermeable surface . The geometric work s are hieroglyphic, intimating a crypti c language of elemental forms. Throughout the exhibition a bstraction is presented not as a negation of figuration and the bodily, but as something that happens to the body

a process , a language

through which the body must pass.

The se works form a path to an alter

like fountain Zone at the heart of the exhibition: a truncated cube covered in hand

made white ceramic tiles, partially encrusted with sharp, pointed ceramic lotus leaves, moulded from a reflexology mat. Su ggest ing spas , h ammam architecture , morgue tables or minimalist sculpture , this work speaks of bodies being washed or cared for and recalls the way objects and architecture shape our bodies and selves. The reflexology flowers promise relaxation, but they are shar p and potentially painful . T he implication of the pressing of bodies here (echoed in the ceramic wall reliefs ) complicates the blankness and emptiness implied in the minimalist construction . Decor or prop

like, the fountain serves to activate the gallery as a site for a performance o r ritualistic action. The meditative lull of running water echoes through the gallery, remind ing us that we are, like nature, ever changing and impermanent .

Their peregrinations are cyclical and circular. Whatever the itinerary, whatever point of departure they choose, they end up at the same place. The paths are parallel, equidistant, narrower and narrower as they approach the centre of the figure. If they fo llow the path from the interior to the exterior they must traverse the widest of the circles before finding the cross

passage that leads them to the centre. The system is closed. No radius starting from the centre allows of any expansion or of breaking thr ough. At the same time it is without limit, the juxtaposition of the increasingly widening circles configures every possible revolution. It is virtually that infinite sphere whose centre is everywhere, circumference nowhere. Monique Wittig , Les Guérillères


Thu Perret
was born in Geneva and studied at Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK and the Whitney Independent Study Program, New York, NY. She has been awarded both the 2011 Zurich Art Prize and le Prix Culturel Manor (2011) and took part in ILLUMInations (curated by Bice Curiger) at the 54th Venice Biennale. Solo exhibitions include Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, TX (2016), Kunsthaus Aarau, Aarau, Switzerland (2011), MAMCO, Geneva, Switzerland (2011), Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich, Switzerland (2011), Le Magasin, Grenob le, France (2011) , University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, MI (2010), The Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, CO (2009), San Francisco Muse um of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA (2008), The Kitchen, New York, NY (2008) and The Renaissance Society, Chicago, IL (2006). Group exhibitions include Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, MA (2015), Swiss Institute, Ne w York (2015), Centre d'art contemporain de La Ferme du buisson, Noisiel, France (2014), Musée d'Art Moderne, Paris, France (2013), Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, East Lansing, MI, Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, CO (2013), CCS Bard Hessel Museum, Annandale


Hudson, NY (2012), Kunsthalle Bern, Bern, Switzerland (2012) and Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany (2010).