The Ninth Concept, a collective of transdisciplinary artists settled in Montreuil, France, has devised an original creative process that combines the graphic arts, painting, collage, music, street art, and happenings. Today, its three founding members—Stéphane Carricondo, Ned, and Jerk 45—have just completed a major series of portraits entitled “Alchemy,” that offers us splendid effigies of nine women and men, strange contemporary prophets straight out of some ethnological museum.

It is Carricondo who begins the pieces with carefully drawn, imposing busts onto which heraldic elements and cartouche-like features, reminiscent of ethnic tattoos, are stuck on by Ned. Jerk 45 finishes off the work by adding compositions made up of fantasy animals painted in acrylic, highlighting them with collages taken from popular magazines. It’s basically a sort of investigation into our origins that these creative works offer, placed into a veritable generational melting pot.

Looked at more closely, we see that the nine works are charged with a fascinating magnetic force. These fullface, bust, head-to-waist, and head-to-toes portraits offer a strictly frontal view of faces that call out to us. One discovers that the iconography of the models Carricondo uses is inspired by images from the Paris Colonial Exhibition of 1931, held at Porte Dorée in the Bois de Vincennes, a few steps away from the collective’s studio. The artist seems to be returning to the scene of a crime against humanity that took place in his neighborhood, just around the corner from his street! This “human zoo” that this “around-the-world-in-a-day tour” offered was meant as a reflection of the colonial power of “Greater France” while highlighting its civilizing mission.

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