New York City, Lovers, and Memory: A Q&A with Agathe Snow in Paris

It was the day before Agathe Snows opening at Paris’s Galerie Hussenot, and it was shaping up to be one of the most playful and participatory events of the freshly-minted fall art season. When ARTINFO France arrived, Snow was still busy sewing striped tent fabric with strong nylon thread, but she was completely relaxed and calmly enthusiastic as she answered our questions about the show.

The next evening, among the hanging sculptures that tell of the artist’s past love life, visitors were invited to move to vintage hits such as Dionne Warwick, Dalida, and Tammy Wynette. As at a junior-high dance, there was much anticipation and excitement: who would go first? Initially shy, couples slowly came forward once Agathe Snow herself took the floor with a smile. On the gallery’s two levels, the raw, colorful shapes of Snow’s memory sculptures seemed to join in the dance.

ARTINFO France also sat down with gallery director Eric Hussenot to talk about how he met Snow, why her work speaks to him, and what he calls the "fearless" generation of New York artists.

By using your initials, the title of your show, "A.S. Still A.S. Life," seems to indicate that this work is very autobiographical.

Agathe Snow: The show displays portraits of my lovers. I just had a baby, so now I’m "stuck" with one man! But this work refers to numerous stories, young men who were important in my life.Fourteen personalities are evoked by the constructions that are suspended or displayed on the wall. All these works use recycled elements. There is tent cloth that was used for a performance that recreated a beach in New York, which has been repainted. The paint is what I used to paint my house. I live in the country, so I really enjoyed cutting the wood that is part of the hanging pieces. The beads that decorate all of it were left by children who came to my house. The constructions on the wall were made with wooden planks with holes in them for hanging up tools.

Could you mention some of the names of these people who are dear to you?

AS: Each work has a boy’s name. It starts with Alexandre, Christophe, Guillaume, continues with Dash, Anthony they are all there, like so many souvenirs, so many memories, that remain, that change. Some of these people are dead now, but these colorful monuments don’t exactly speak of mourning. Something happier comes out of all this.

The suspended pieces include several symbols for each person.

AS: Yes. You can make out guitars, umbrellas for people who protected me, fruits, people who are full of seeds, others without seeds [laughter]. These pieces also represent several countries, several cities, from Corsica to Canada, including New York, all these places where I’ve lived.

Is the fact that you always work with recycled materials connected to an environmental awareness?

AS: Not in the beginning. First I worked with recycled or gathered elements out of necessity. The more I move forward in my work, the more I want to make space. The more you create, the more you accumulate. Using recycled elements means reducing this accumulation, in a desire to lighten the load, to take up less space on the planet. It’s more connected to a question of space than to a specifically environmental impulse.

The pieces on the wall evoke Warhol’s flowers. Were particular artistic references an impulse for these works?

AS: This summer I saw an exhibition of still-lifes by James Rosenquist, and I left wanting to show still-lifes myself. I worked a lot on the apocalypse before, but now we’re in a period of rebirth. In art history, these periods pushed great painters to produce still-lifes. I wanted to be included in this process. Today, this rebirth, this renewal, is a place to reflect, to develop new ideas, new ways of living, of living better. We don’t really have the choice. This is where we are.

Can you reveal any secrets about the performance at the opening tomorrow?

AS: I’m still thinking about it, but I’d like to show a certain slowness of life, this kind of moment when everything stops, and then afterward you start again. I want to have a party, to get the people in the room to slow-dance.

Are you going to play records?

AS: I’m looking for someone to play records. Do you want to do it?

Oh, yeah, I’d love that! I could spin some old vinyl…

AS: Really? Do you have a turntable? OK! I want to play only slow songs, the classic slow songs.

How long have you been following Agathe Snow’s work?

Eric Hussenot: We met two years ago at FIAC. Right away I was seduced by the energy and positivism of her work. For me, her work is very social, full of hope, but she also takes on decay. This is a work that has a generational aspect, that’s of its time: fragile work that holds together.

The pieces in this show are especially optimistic.

EH: This corresponds to new perspectives that are opening up for her, on the family level and the professional level, because she will have a big solo show at the Berlin Guggenheim next January. It also symbolizes this whole new New York generation that believes in life more. There is this new presidency, this return of hope.

How would you define this young New York scene?

EH: I would use the word "fearless." You notice a common artistic approach, without fear, beyond art codes. Agathe is at the center of an artistic scene that functions according to a group dynamic, with artists such as Dan Colen, and so many others, who studied together.