Emmanuel Louisnord Desir "Born to Win"

24 February - 23 March 2024

Emmanuel Louisnord Desir’s exhibition Born to Win considers ancient systems and evokes a legacy of resistance. His first solo presentation with Sebastian Gladstone Los Angeles, the exhibition consists of one painting and seven bronze sculptures that inspire a poetic conversation around material, colonialism, and rebirth. In Desir’s compositions, his signature motifs reappear in a new dystopian landscape battling subjugation and dehumanization. Each work centers the inner emotion and subconscious of the protagonist in boundless realities spawned from the diasporas of the past and present. In this relationship between death and life, throughout trials and tribulations, there’s salvation for the figures and ourselves.


Coupling Desir’s molded environments and the nuanced prose of Jayne Cortez in There It Is reminds us that we are in a world where, “we are programmed to self-destruct, to fragment, to get buried under ….” Revealing the dichotomy between oppression and liberation, Desir’s use of material harkens to an ancestral practice derived from the lost wax casting method which can be traced back to 4550 BC. Using molds and carvings to assemble imagery the artist utilizes bronze, at first in a liquid state, and smelts the metal product. The process in itself draws similarities to a society where those downtrodden are tried by fire. Treasured metals are thus rid of their imperfections and dismantled as the mold is destroyed to remove the cast item. In works like Hell on Earth and Mound remains of tools, skulls, serpents, and wings are seemingly cast off and buried. Desir’s manipulation of bronze draws elegant parallels interweaving the history of being a material used functionally as well as to adorn and establish hierarchy. 


In Spoil 10 and Riches of the Earth, the smooth structural forms show a parable where recurring figures of the supernatural depict death and rebirth. Desir plays with memories of Babylonian Captivity, the Valley of Death, and the Bronze Age, capturing eons of diasporic movement forever resonant within the ripples of time. The artist’s incorporation of Western symbols and African hairstyles allows for the reconquering and emancipation of institutionalized beliefs. Thus serving as an exodus from a colonialist mindset where as Cotrez eloquently expresses, “They will try to exploit you, absorb you, confine you, disconnect you, isolate you, or kill you.” Desir’s oil on wood piece Levi’s Revenge marks this catalyst for change.


Also on view in the exhibition are The Living Dead and Born to Win, where Desir offers the body becoming the object, presenting two sculptures one of renewal and the other of resurrection. Repairing a sense of worthiness after being broken down, though the body may or may not be changed there is a retention of personhood. Placed on Plastic  barrels, similar to those the African diasporic communities in the Caribbean would ship back to their homeland, displaying the works in this way provides the viewer with a sentimental connection, a sharing of culture. Reaching back to a place where one voluntarily left or was forced, to claim agency and to resist the erasure of self boldly.


Born to Win is a reflection of resilience. Responding to Biblical texts in Revelations and the books of Moses inspired many of the decisions Desir chose to include in his works. Meditating on symbols of the Pyramids, babies, bones, brick walls, and crystals creates sculptural landscapes that explore the morals and complexities within those stories. The pieces in this exhibition are an act of ongoing exploration and fondness for creativity and never-ending possibilities.


- Taylor Bythewood-Porter

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