exhibition, Paris, photography

Revealing Creative Genius(es)? Of Photography’s Imposture

1 Willy Rizzo, -Picasso, époque

Willy Rizzo, “Picasso, red period”, Paris Match nº211, March-April 1953, photomechanical reproduction, 35,2×52,5cm, coll. Forney Library

Do you –readers of Paris Match, exhibition visitors…– have the audacity to think you would be able to understand the complexity, plenitude and mystery of the pictorial or sculptural act of creation, just by looking at photographs or movies showing the artist at work? Well, the exhibition In the Studio (at the Petit Palais, until July 17, 2016) will crush any delusions you might have. You will see artists striking a pose with self-confidence and pride in their talent, promoting themselves on glossy paper, managing carefully their own image: from Ingres brooding or Pablo Picasso fooling around for Brassaï to Jeff Koons as a naked gymnast (not to mention the purely commercial product that is M.-P. Nègre’s photograph of M. Moquet for the Drouot Gazette, depicting her studio as “a place where, when hands are busy, orgasms are possible” –No comment). You will see portraits commissioned by journals, publishers, galleries or the artist him/herself, all in line with the same precisely defined and regulated logic, aimed at selling illusions. You will see Rodin pretending to chisel marble (which he never did) and Auguste Renoir, his hands deformed by arthritis, pretending to paint in front of Sacha Guitry glorifying French creative geniuses in 1915. But you will not see Lucio Fontana pretending to slash a canvas for Ugo Mulas, as the latter is regrettably not featured in this exhibition, even though he might have been the only photographer capable of portraying the impossibility of photographing the artist at work. Indeed, after photographing Jasper Johns, Mulas decided to stop picturing painters in the process of painting, thusly acknowledging the very ambiguity of the situation: “If the painter agrees to it, the image is purely promotional in nature; if he refuses and I do convince him, it becomes an act of violence.” Continue reading