Julien Ceccaldi Gets Everyone In on the Joke
Art Young Artists 2022

Julien Ceccaldi Gets Everyone In on the Joke

The pleasure principle applies to basic needs and urges, but what about the desires that aren’t so necessary? At Julien Ceccaldi’s “Centuries Old,” a double-headed solo show hosted by Jenny’s and Lomex in New York this fall, the artist delved into the satanic impulse she encourages through two female characters lifted from his decade-old illustrated series.Their cute, anime-inflected likenesses spread across the two downtown spaces in various postures, sometimes dressed in Ceccaldi’s clothes, and make their way through Frenchwriter Joris-Karl Huysmans’s Là-Bas (1891), an autobiographical novel about finding oneself in the rediscovery of the occult. “So many of the things people associate with the devil are the things I like to do,” Ceccaldi says, brushing the snarls out of a princess wig and standing near a stained-glass triptych depicting a girl elated with a new purchase. “I wanted to make a show about pleasure with no judgment and what that would look like.”

While theatrical in its allegiance to costumes and sets and, perhaps more importantly, the shopping they require, Ceccaldi’s exhibition forwent any narrative, operating more likea tool for stretching out the personas of his drawn heroines. The artist’s comic books (he’s on his seventh) are where the storytelling happens. The exhibition space is saved for more athletic experimentation. I imagine Ceccaldi after dusk, alone in the gallery wrestling nineties nostalgia onto handmade skeletons—a scene from a CEO-retreat, character-building nightmare with Oskar Kokoschka dolly psychosis undertones.

Julien Ceccaldi gives his mannequin sculpture a piggyback as he installs his 2021 Lomex exhibition.

Some of the cottagecore, downtown grunge, mall-nostalgic idlers at the opening of “Centuries Old” matched the mannequins Ceccaldi had dressed. This blush of realness lent a humor to the show that made it feel like everyone (dolls included) was in on the joke. Some of the screen printed hoodies that the sculptures wore also made their way into the crowd, further blurring the punchline.

Wearing mine onto an airplane, I got told to take it off. That the bob-haired centipedes running down its front were too much for flight, or at least this particular attendant. I asked if it helped that they were wearing Blair Waldorf-inspired headbands? She shook her head solemnly. Apparently the devil can wear Brandy Melville but she can’t go to Los Angeles. This is the magic of the work, that it conjures visceral reactions even in its play.

More tricks are coming; Ceccaldi is already on his iPad assembling the beginnings of what will be the next book. The topics have changed since his first comics collection, where great outfits couldn’t protect even the most heroic amongst us from being ghosted or our hangovers. “When I was younger I focused on the club because I felt that is where I always was, but I couldn’t find the depictions to prove it,” Ceccaldi says. “Nowadays things are different. I’m different."