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Jean Dessirier: Mythologies

The first U.S. exhibition of Jean Dessirier, a French sculptor and painter whose raw materials are ancient myth and the old rooftops of Paris. Since the early 1980s, Dessirier has crafted polychromatic sculptures out of salvaged roofing zinc, evoking legends about sirens and fauns. Other artworks by Dessirier are carved out of scrapwood, and other timeless themes emerge directly from his imagination.

Trained as a glassmaker, Dessirier was employed by Versailles at the age of 20, working on the restoration of the Grand Trianon. Exposure to the palace’s spectacular painting collection inspired Dessirier to enroll in a Montparnasse drawing school and subsequently the Academy André Lhote as a student of painting and printmaking. Yet it was only after he began painting pictures of animals and people on pieces of wood — discarded by a friend who made furniture — that he found his true métier. “From a formal point of view, I realized that the painted sculpture simulated volume,” he says. “So a little unexpectedly, I developed a personal style.”

Dessirier deftly brings all of these influences into the realm of mythology. For instance, he has often depicted sirens, women with the bodies of birds or fish who were said to seduce men with their irresistible song. Sculpturally he is entranced by their hybrid form, and poetically he is moved by their habit of seduction and abandonment. “For me, they represent a sublimation of desire,” he says. Dessirier makes all of his sculptures in a countryside studio on the periphery of Paris.