Madison Cox Works His Magic at Paul Kasmin's Les Lalanne Exhibition
by Hannah Martin
The gardens at Claude Lalanne’s home and studio near Fontainebleau, France, are the stuff of fairy tales. Greenery cascades over ruined stone walls. Paths wind through a labyrinth of wooded coves and exterior rooms. It’s the setting of a fantastical tea party, complete with a host of fanciful guests—stately bronze gorillas, a flock of stone sheep, cabbages that have sprouted legs.
Known to most as Les Lalanne, Claude and her late husband, François-Xavier, started making delightful sculptures in the early 1960s. Claude created whimsical branches, ginkgo leaves, and cabbages, and François-Xavier cast sleek, highly stylized animaux. Now garden designer Madison Cox has brought a bit of their famous property’s elusive magic to New York for “Les Lalanne,” the fourth exhibition of their work at Paul Kasmin, which opened last night.
“[Claude] had this wonderful pair of garden gates she created 30 years ago,” says Cox, who has known the artist for about that long. “My idea [for the show] was that you would walk through those garden gates and then see the sculptures as if they were in the woods or an enclosed space.”
Claude re-created the gates for the show—down to the tiny mice hidden away in the branches—and they’ve been placed at the entrance of the gallery. Through them, Cox has managed an utter transformation. Once open and stark white, the gallery now contains a series of moody rooms that display 30 works, tucking each one away “as if you’ve come upon it.”
François-Xavier’s stylized owl greets you from behind the gates. In the next room, Claude’s massive, surrealist Pomme d’Hiver lets off a golden glow. Past the antelope and the gorilla, the lights dim and you enter a magnificent mirrored room painted crimson. It’s hung with a collection of Claude’s gilded mirrors and an elaborate chandelier, a riff on a room she once conceived for her friend and client Yves Saint Laurent.
“You have to see her hands,” Cox says. “They are so beautiful because, I mean, they’ve been burnt, they’ve been twisted, they’ve been cracked—it’s extraordinary! As if she just came out of the workshop.” That’s likely because she has. The 90-year-old artist made most of the works in this show over the past year with little assistance. While she has a few robust guys to help with the heavy things, she’s still soldering, still welding, still creating.
Even the day before the opening, Claude is hard at work installing with Cox and Kasmin. As they try out several fonts for the wall text and tweak the placement of the mirrors just so, she says to Kasmin, “It’s the first time you can really see my works.” Perhaps the truest testament to Cox’s brilliant and unusual display.
Through May 2 at Paul Kasmin Gallery, 515 West 27th Street, New York; paulkasmingallery.com