A Conversation With Alben
(b. 1973, Normandy, France) Alben is a contemporary artist who plays with influences from the Pop Art and Graffiti movement to create his own unique take on sculpture. Best known for his resin and toy sculptures, Alben, plays between the concepts of nostalgia and Kitsch.
Alben’s Artistic Style
Alben’s iconic sculptures incorporate a combined use of imagery and symbolism through the shapes of the sculptures and the objects used to fill them (such as toys, kitchen utensils, bullets, etc).
This symbolism which remains enigmatic is meant to establish an intimate relationship with the viewer. In a way, this use of relationships of the objects compels a viewer to think of their own childhood and redefine the conceptual structures of what these objects evoke.
Alben touched on this:
MP: What is the biggest misconception you have found about your artwork?
A: People often ask me if it’s my toys that I put in resin. In fact, my parents threw away all the toys from my childhood. I have nothing left, not even a small car…I think I then developed a kind of “post-traumatic syndrome”. The compulsive accumulation of all kinds of objects including toys is a way of filling these wounds I imagine.
Aside from his sculptures, Alben also paints or “bombs” using a stencil and paint technique. This technique is commonly used and popularized by other graffiti artists such as blek le rat and Banksy. Alben’s Bomb paintings also refer to the similar symbols in his sculptures but on a 2-dimensional surface.
MP: How would you identify your style?
A: I navigate between contemporary art and Pop Art. I’m doing something unique, obviously, other artists are working on the inclusions. However, the work on the discrepancy between substance and form, the importance of aesthetics as well as the scale of my works sets me apart. This is a difficult question since I have never seen other sculptures approached from this angle.
The objective of Alben’s art is then really to challenge and offer people an unusual look at objects that they think they know well. We then find ourselves pushed around, if not poor, the face of this gross delivery of images, scripted and transformed through various technical, shattered the traditional cliches of art.
MP: What were some of the major influences on you and your artwork, and how have they helped you adapt your taste and style?
A: I was first influenced by the New Realists movement in France. Arman who also lived in NYC inspired me a lot. Already in the 70s, he put garbage in the resin. American Pop Art was also a starting point, my work is above all a reflection on the consumer society. Then I adapted it, I spend a lot of time in flea markets. Analyzing societies through what they throw away is a perpetual process.
Exhibition History & More
Alben was commissioned to create a permanent public installation in his current city of Bordeaux and has exhibited widely throughout Europe, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates. His artworks are held in public and private collections, including in Paris, Dubai, Hong Kong, Australia, Bordeaux, and more.
MP: Is there anything new that you are working on that you could share more about?
A: Before making sculptures, I first worked in 2D. (Accumulation of stencils, serigraphs, stamp) In recent years, in addition to my sculptures, I have been experimenting with a new type of resin on a wood project. I call these relief paintings “Imprints”. I mold a whole bunch of relief objects such as enamel plates, food boxes, license plates, factory plates… whatever I find! Then with resin, I assemble them and accumulate them on large wooden plates. I like the idea of bringing together logos, messages, and objects that have a priori nothing to do with each other but which nevertheless form a coherent whole. Once again the idea is to get people to change their perspective…at least for a little while!