Berlin-based Cyprien Gaillard, whose destruction-and-indulgence-filled Cities of Gold and Mirrors visited Frieze London last year, returns in Laura Bartlett’s booth with Millions into Darkness and other harbingers of social collapse. Gaillard’s prescient work has long been preoccupied with decadence—from images of drunken frat boys to the grinning, tone-deaf symbol of American occupation that adorns Cleveland Indians’ baseball uniforms—so it’s no surprise that his latest work is a tad bleak.
But offsetting Millions’ black-and-white photographs of destroyed cities and natural disasters is the tidy, artist-made display case that houses them. Gaillard is unrelenting in his images of dysfunction, but their collage is simple and neat, their presentation tastefully curated and catalogued, and he approaches dire issues with ease. His poetry, elusive but felt, is in the absurdity of the destructive behavior he highlights, the world’s continual ugliness in the face of a near and achievable peace.
Gates, which joins Millions at Frieze, again points to a post-apocalyptic optimism. With a collection of frottages of present-day manhole covers, Cyprien documents the world’s cities with intellectual rigor and emotional calm.
Frieze London begins just two days after the opening of “From Wings to Fins,” Gaillard’s show at London’s Sprüth Magers with the late American innovator and color field painter Morris Louis. More than ever, it is fitting that Louis, so important to orderly-yet-expressive mid-century composition, would be paired with another contradiction, the level-headed yet psychologically taxing Gaillard in this the prime of his career.