Over 21, Christophe Laudamiel at Dillon Gallery
The door opened, and the entry was heavy with scent; a perfumed trail escaped out and down from from the second floor gallery, and I was instantly reminded of the euphoria that comes from smelling something really good. A triumphant sillage. Master Perfumer Christophe Laudamiel presented Over 21 at the Dillon Gallery in NYC, and invited us to his table to experience a ten-course olfactory meal consisting of his compositions from over the past ten years. At each table-setting there was a different scent inside an inkwell-like container, blotters were dipped and directed to the nose. Through this disruptive approach Laudamiel asks us not to be sleepy consumers, but rather engage with his scents that explore intimate landscapes, scenes from the past, taboos, the imagination. Ideally, the table has always been a symbol for family and community, a gathering place. A declaration that scent is best when experienced with others, and these fragrances deserve our attention and discourse. At this table we can leave our simple ideas about scent behind. The artist wants to elevate the discussion, he writes “scent is not only about memory, a scent can be abstract, help create forward thinking ideas and project oneself into the future.” The world seems intimately connected while encountering these fragrances that have been freed from the confines of the bottle to reveal their dark and mystical qualities. A myriad of compositions come across vicious, pungent, intoxicating, magnificent, and unsettling, each a defining statement. Over 21 showcased the artist’s evolution too. His most recent creations dated 2017 came across more daring than his earlier work. Take We Are All Liquid (2017), pungent, salty, and yeasty almost flat then to my surprise its heart revealed a brilliant floral component, echoing humanity and all of its brilliant potential. Some come across just as they are, and there is no need for an explanation: Mushroom (2008); Secret Grass (Laudamiel/Hornetz (2011); Cocaine (Laudamiel/Hornetz 2008); Sweat or Sex? (2017), while others are meditative, such as, Cocktail Hour – Green Fairy in Chelsea (Laudamiel/Charron 2017) an expert take on Absinth, a scented sonata composed of wormwood, anise, fennel, and coriander, a transfixing composition that steadies the heart rate. Spacewood 40SU (Laudamiel/Hornetz 2001-2008) takes us into the future, it was presented in a covered porcelain bowl that contained scented kaolin pebbles; this is the kind of fragrance that makes you chase it, inhale it over and over again, never wanting it to end. Spacewood is an icy-dry, metallic, futuristic floral. It awakens the mind to imagine a scented galaxy, notes of Paradisone, violet leaves, and natural vanilla create the illusion. Here, the perfumer pushes us toward an open experience with scent that continually captivates. Over 21 plays out in many ways – scent for scent’s sake; scent as experience; scent as a driver for ideas and innovation. The scented world is part of our daily lives, and Laudamiel’s offerings linger in our consciousness long after leaving his table, reminding us that we are intrinsically connected to our sense of smell, if only we would notice it.
Photo: Place-setting for Green Fairy in Chelsea, NYC February 2017