The Invisible Bikini… The title might herald the start of an improbable quest that seems to tap into memories of classic thrillers as well as comic books, both those we used to consume as children. Strewn all around the gallery, the creations by Hippolyte Hentgen rise up like so many clues or snippets of narrative, fuelling the mystery. Oversized hands, legs and feet, disembodied from any figure, seem to have been lifted straight from a cartoon, as if they had fled characters gleefully flattened, stretched and pulverised by Tex Avery. These limbs—grotesque due to their forms and slack abandon, precious for the attention given to their seams— are transported by the fantastic and the ridiculous. Those melted forms, emancipated from the two-dimensional fate reserved to them by animation and comics have also something reminiscent of pop culture. It’s almost impossible not to think of the soft sculptures by Claes Oldenburg or the vinyl figures produced by his contemporaries Teresa Burga and Kiki Kogelnik when observing this parade of shapeless bodies and trivial objects such as cigarettes and newspapers. This pop reference is reinforced by the inclusion of hangings combining buxom pin-ups and onomatopoeia.
Hippolyte Hentgen toys with this mix of universes never intended to come into contact. In this museum of the imagination, avant-garde creations, comic strips, animation, popular illustration and editorial cartoons mingle, forming a fantastical and jubilant universe completely separate from the hierarchies of genres.
This invisible bikini is, of course, a slightly sharp and unrestrained nod to the French Riviera and its languishing bodies and stereotypes; a prelude to a fiction that the visitor is free to compose themselves. But it is also an irreverent, screamingly pop and deliberately mischievous take on the works of so many great names which populate the MAMAC’s collections.
Lina Hentgen and Gaëlle Hippolyte studied at the Villa Arson from 1998 to 2006. Their meeting developed into a four-handed collaboration under the name Hippolyte Hentgen.
Hippolyte Hentgen has carried out a residency at the prestigious Villa Kujoyama (Japan). Her work has been shown at many solo and collective exhibitions, including the Printemps de Septembre festival in Toulouse (2018); the Musée de l’Abbaye Sainte-Croix, Les Sables-d’Olonne; Delme Synagogue; the CRAC Occitanie in Sète; the MAMCO in Geneva, and the Villa Arson.
Hélène Guenin, director of MAMAC
Hippolyte Hentgen is represented by the Sémiose gallery, Paris