Alexis Ralaivao: On s’enrichit de ce que l’on donne, on s’appauvrit de ce que l’on prend

June 8 – August 11, 2023 297 Tenth Avenue, New York
  • Kasmin is thrilled to present Berlin-based painter Alexis Ralaivao’s largest New York solo exhibition to date, On s’enrichit de ce que l’on donne, on s’appauvrit de ce que l’on prend, on view at the gallery’s 297 Tenth Avenue location from June 8 through August 11, 2023. Featuring eleven new oil paintings, the exhibition reveals recent developments among Ralaivao’s signature detail views of human figures and the proprieties they observe. Articulating a sentimental ethnography of contemporary virtues and comportments, Ralaivao’s softly-rendered studies are drawn from 21st-century social life.
  • Ranging in scale from the intimate to the imposing, Ralaivao’s work finds affective charge in the ordinary and mundane. Revitalizing...
    Alexis Ralaivao, Clutching my pearls, 2022, oil on canvas.
    Ranging in scale from the intimate to the imposing, Ralaivao’s work finds affective charge in the ordinary and mundane. Revitalizing the Northern European tradition of genre painting, or popular scenes of everyday life that rivaled more-esteemed categories like history painting, Ralaivao seamlessly synthesizes the techniques and attentive gaze of Dutch Golden Age painters—Gerard Ter Borch, Gabriel Metsu, and Jan Steen among them—with contemporary concerns, such as the fragmentary nature of the digital age. Textures like skin, metal, and cloth become the striking focus of Ralaivao’s work, establishing a concentrated atmosphere inside of which a viewer can make keen observations. Dedicating entire canvases to singular details of Baroque compositions, Ralaivao demonstrates his commitment to mastering and personalizing these motifs. In the artist’s words, “I start with a scene from everyday life, ordinary intimate moments. But as I sketch and paint them, they become something more. Layers after layers, what was the ‘truth,’ is mixed with my personal feelings, desires and fantasies.”
  • Among the largest paintings on view, La source lumineuse (2022) captures the glare of an unidentified figure’s earring, unveiling for...
    Alexis Ralaivao, La source lumineuse, 2022, oil on canvas.
    Among the largest paintings on view, La source lumineuse (2022) captures the glare of an unidentified figure’s earring, unveiling for a U.S. audience Ralaivao’s recent foray into depictions of metal, which carries into Double date (2022) and Apfelstrudel (2022). The enlarged Clutching my pearls (2022) demonstrates the artist’s distinctive attention to flesh while offering a meditation on a figure caught in a dramatic pause, her hand resting on her bare torso—no pearls in sight—as if gasping in disbelief. Hands, a recurring motif in the exhibition, convey different actions in several compositions: tying the martingale of a coat, resting on a sitter’s lap, squeezing a pair of white gloves, and imparting their absence as those gloves lie on a table in the elongated Souvenir (2022). All depict isolated moments culled from the ordinary measures taken in contemporary social life, from getting dressed up to sharing a meal. The intimate Déjà-vu (2023), the lone depiction of a human face in the exhibition, distorts our sense of chronology or narrative sequence, reminding us that these moments have been felt before—and they will be felt again.
  • Working with three main models—his girlfriend, his brother, and a close friend—Ralaivao retains a familial character in his work. “I can’t paint people I’m not really intimate with,” Ralaivao told the Artsy Vanguard on the occasion of his 2022 spotlight. “It feels more authentic rather than [depicting] someone I don’t know, I won’t be emotionally involved enough to paint it well.” Ensuring the longevity of this personal connection to each work, Ralaivao inscribes a unique text on the verso of each canvas, hidden from installation view but certain to be unearthed by a future generation—a nod to the artist’s study of online art conservation videos that have shaped his understanding of the canvas as a layered archaeological site, one to be treated like a time capsule. While Ralaivao has previously inscribed personal diary entries on his canvases, this exhibition marks the first time the artist has authored a short story corresponding with the works on view—a fragment of which hides behind its respective composition—equally recalling French author Guy de Maupassant’s famous short story The Necklace (1884) and the German artist Max Klinger’s set of etchings Paraphrase on the Finding of a Glove (1877–78). Taken from the 1992 science fiction novel Le jour des fourmis by French writer Bernard Werber, the exhibition title—“we are enriched by what we give, we are impoverished by what we take”—alludes to Ralaivao’s thoughtful anticipation of the relics that will come to define his subjects’ social condition, all while encapsulating the moral of the story on view.

  • Works
    • Alexis Ralaivao, Apfelstrudel, 2022
      Alexis Ralaivao, Apfelstrudel, 2022
    • Alexis Ralaivao, Before the dance, 2022
      Alexis Ralaivao, Before the dance, 2022
    • Alexis Ralaivao, Clutching my pearls, 2022
      Alexis Ralaivao, Clutching my pearls, 2022
    • Alexis Ralaivao, Déjà-vu, 2023
      Alexis Ralaivao, Déjà-vu, 2023
    • Alexis Ralaivao, Double date, 2022
      Alexis Ralaivao, Double date, 2022
    • Alexis Ralaivao, Eclat sur terre d’ombre, 2023
      Alexis Ralaivao, Eclat sur terre d’ombre, 2023
    • Alexis Ralaivao, Emeraudes & Améthystes, 2023
      Alexis Ralaivao, Emeraudes & Améthystes, 2023
    • Alexis Ralaivao, La source lumineuse, 2022
      Alexis Ralaivao, La source lumineuse, 2022
    • Alexis Ralaivao, Sortir le grand jeu, 2023
      Alexis Ralaivao, Sortir le grand jeu, 2023
    • Alexis Ralaivao, Le Trigger, 2023
      Alexis Ralaivao, Le Trigger, 2023
    • Alexis Ralaivao, Souvenir, 2022
      Alexis Ralaivao, Souvenir, 2022
  • About the Artist

    Alexis Ralaivao

    Alexis Ralaivao

    With titles spanning three languages—English, French, and German—Ralaivao’s work indicates the artist’s cross-cultural upbringing and growing international presence. Born in Rennes, France, in 1991 to a Madagascan father and a French mother, Ralaivao did not attend art school but rather earned degrees in languages and communication. Following his turn to art making in 2012, Ralaivao studied Dutch Old Masters in museums to “see paintings in the flesh.” He equally valued lectures, easily accessible online, from major painters like Henry Taylor. Three years after making his international debut in New York in 2020, Ralaivao’s work is held in institutional collections in the United States and abroad, including the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami and the He Art Museum, China.
  • Explore