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'Cueillette mignonne' by Hélène Padoux at Lily Robert, Paris

Absorbed in a conflict of feelings, cueillette mignonne unfolds as a fever dream of seductive cuteness intertwined with threats of toxicity. The figures that inhabit the canvases drift in dark tenderness in states of suspended agency and diffusiveness, simultaneously disturbed and reassured.

Être une bonne poire
— the French expression for a person whose generosity will backlash with naivety — is in Padoux’s universe represented in tendered fruits and flowers with a sentimental attitude toward the diminutive and vulnerable. While appreciating them as cute and vulnerable beings of escapism, the feeling we are confronted with is easily overpowered by a second feeling of manipulation and exploitation. The norm wants us to see the aesthetic of the cute as an aesthetic of powerlessness. There can be no experience of any person or object as cute that does not somehow call up the sense of power over those who are less powerful.

But in cueillette mignonne, the figures that embody the naive and cute are celebrated as empowered creatures of vulnerability. Here, sweetness is treated with darkness in order to unfold the uneasiness it leads to. Padoux advances a poetic and critical exploration of the aesthetic of cuteness; from the seemingly naive arises a critique of the consumerism and power structures that is interwoven in the art world, where the practices of young artists are the most vulnerable and where those in power can pick as they choose.

Cueillette mignonne
embraces the heroic teen attitude and honors the affective power of cuteness in an aesthetic of emotionality. 

Take a cute peek. And make a cute pick. 

6.2.21 — 13.3.21

Lily Robert

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