A 2006 graduate from the École nationale supérieure des Arts-Décoratifs, Raphaël Denis invents processes from which he develops series. This conceptual dimension comes to life in works associating impertinence and solemnity. Art history in the larger sense of an aesthetic and formal history, but also in the sense of the history of its milieu, with its mechanisms and its agents, becomes the object of an interrogation that aims at revealing its complexity and subterfuges.
After appropriating Dürer’s mysterious and haunting polyhedron, translated in different sculptural forms, as well as literary masterpieces (such as Madame de La Fayette’s The Princess of Clèves or Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time) transformed into monochromes, Raphaël Denis has imagined a new series from historical masterpieces looted under the Third Reich. This “negative” art history is composed by an accumulation of black panels placed inside ancient frames found on flea markets, marked with an identification number referring to the inventory number of looted works, and overlooked by an anonymous portrait. This installation allows the artist to mimic the constitution of a “war chest” by the Nazis. Beyond the violence of history (made of removals, loss, and disappearance), this work reveals the intimate and affective dimension of collecting.
The works of Raphaël Denis provide the viewer with reflection apparatuses in which often simple and radical productions invite to meditate on grey areas and on what is hidden from view.”