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The gallery’s inaugural exhibition, Les ateliers du Paradise. Installation view at Air de Paris, Nice (1990). Photography by Raph Gatti. 

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The Paris-based gallery Air de Paris takes its name from Marcel Duchamp’s 1919 readymade "50cc of Paris Air," a moniker that aptly reflects the gallery’s experimental ethos. Founded in 1990 by Florence Bonnefous and Edouard Merino, who met as students in the curatorial program at the École du Magasin in Grenoble, the gallery opened with the now-infamous exhibition Les Ateliers du Paradise—described as “a film in real time”—for which Bonnefous and Merino invited Philippe Perrin, Pierre Joseph, and Philippe Parreno to occupy the gallery for an entire month, transforming it into a site for spontaneous events and actions. 

Over the ensuing three decades, Air de Paris has remained a hotbed for surprising and compelling discourse. The gallery’s presentation at Independent will be anchored by Dorothy Iannone’s painting "Follow Me" (1970) from her important series “Eros,” a body of work characterized by exuberant—and explicit—representations of female sexuality and pleasure. The gallery will also bring a more recent work, "Our Liberties" (2015), a boldly colored drawing depicting three versions of the Statue of Liberty accompanied by the verse “I lift my lamp beside the golden door,” the last line of Emma Lazarus’s sonnet “The New Colossus.” The drawing serves as the basis for a forthcoming mural project on the High Line—a work that seems particularly timely in light of the current political climate. 

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Dorothy Iannone, "Look at Me"1970/71
Collage and acrylic on canvas, 190 x 150 cm
© Photo Jochen Littkemann, Berlin
Courtesy of the artist and Air de Paris, Paris

Jef Geys, "!questions de femmes? (Hindi)", 1980s
Ink on oilcloth, wood, yarn, 700 x 140 cm
© Photo Marc Domage
Courtesy of the artist and Air de Paris, Paris

Eliza Douglas, "So Close", 2017
Oil on canvas, 210 x 180 cm
© Photo Andrea Rossetti
Courtesy of the artist and Air de Paris, Paris

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While there has been a resurgence of interest in Iannone over the past several years, her work was, for many years, overshadowed by that of her former partner, Dieter Roth, or shunned for its frank embrace of sexual imagery: though she has been active since the early 1960s, the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in the United States, Dorothy Iannone: Lioness at the New Museum, was only held in 2009. When the Air de Paris partners first met the artist in 2005—her first exhibition at the gallery was held a year later—“Dorothy had no gallery, no particular support in the art world….She had met censorship all her life.” A “series of coincidences” led to the gallery’s working relationship with the artist, Bonnefous says. Merino had, it turned out, grown up with works by the artist in his parents’ home in Monte Carlo; after a friend mentioned that he had met with the artist in Berlin and that she had no gallery representation, the partners decided to pay her a visit. 

Alongside works by Iannone, Air de Paris’s Independent presentation will include works by Jef Geys and Eliza Douglas, extending the themes of the gallery’s recently-opened exhibition Les destin des châteaux croisés hosted by Los Angeles gallery Chateau Shatto. The exhibition, which features work by Iannone, Geys, Guy de Cointet, and Raul Guerrero, is inspired by Italo Calvino’s "Castle of Crossed Destinies," in which a group of knights exchange stories of their myriad adventures via a game of tarot. 

According to Bonnefous, the decision to “bring together certain artists is very intuitive.” After determining that they would feature Iannone—one of the oldest artists represented by Air de Paris—“I wondered, who is the youngest? Let’s travel [with] them together,” leading to the inclusion of Eliza Douglas, a recent addition to the gallery’s program. From there, Bonnefous and Merino added works from Jef Geys’s long-term series “¡Women’s Questions!,” lists of questions about women’s social roles first developed in 1965 while the artist was teaching at a girls’ school in Belgium as a pedagogical exercise. Over the years, Geys has translated the questions into multiple languages, presenting them as a series of scrolls on patterned oilcloth with handwritten text. For Bonnefous, what links the three artists, isn’t so much a shared sensibility as their individuality: “they are three very special individuals…not caring much [about] the opinions of the outside world. They share a certain degree of freedom.” The associative logic behind the gallery’s process in organizing the presentation is, she says, a form of “non-sense. But non-sense is productive, too, and allows poetry to get in.”