exhibition, painting, Paris

Rehashed Cold Buffet

1 Signature de Bernard Buffet

First, astonishment seizes you: what? a Bernard Buffet exhibition (at the MAMVP, October 14, 2016 – March 5, 2017)? Then, doubt unfurls: maybe I’ve let something slip by me? Am I missing out on some revelation because of my prejudices?
After having seen the exhibition, it’s nothing but consternation: how could they dare to make such an unconvincing show? Or is it that rehabilitating Buffet amounted to an impossible task? And if so, why put together this exhibition? To please Pierre Bergé, the ex-boyfriend, who owns a fair amount of the paintings on display (his portrait pictured last)? I cannot think so. This is not a rediscovery or rehabilitation, this is a “rebranding” —on the walls of the exhibition, a quote from Bergé: “[Buffet’s] prickly signature has become a brand name.” Is this actually the context in which we should apprehend this promotional relaunch?

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exhibition, history, painting

Cy Twombly and his Myth

1 Cy Twombly, Night Watch, 1966, peinture-industrielle-crayon-a-la

Cy Twombly, Night Watch, 1966, industrial paint, wax pencil on canvas, 190x200cm

I must admit from the get-go that I have never been a die-hard fan of Cy Twombly’s work; I do like his photographs and their faded hues, but his paintings often left me skeptical, or even worried. His retrospective at the Centre Pompidou (November 30, 2016 – April 24, 2017) had the merit to help me understand why. To me, Twombly oscillates between two poles: one is austere, abstraction-oriented, pared down, reduced to its simplest expression; the other is expressive, exuberant, almost baroque, and weighed down with references that can be seen as pretentious.

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exhibition, painting, Paris

The Man of the Crowd (Philippe Cognée)

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Philippe Cognée, Solar crowd, 2016, 150x150cm

Greyish, blueish, reddish canvases with muted hues: these are crowds, so we’re told. No border, no frame, what we see is only a fragment of an immensity that we assume stretches left and right, up and down, infinitely expanding, maybe, like photos of clouds. These are crowds of people, individuals lost in the mass, barely discernable. Each person moves, goes forward, makes a gesture; the whole thing is like an idiorhythmy, a community where everyone blends but no one disappears.

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exhibition, painting, Paris

Victor and Honoré

1 Jean-Hubert Fragonard, L'Heureux

Jean-Hubert Fragonard, L’Heureux Moment, ou La Résistance Inutile [The Happy Moment, or Resistance is futile], circa 1770-1775, bistre wash on pierre noire-prepared paper, watercolor highlights, 22.9×34.8cm, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Two beautiful first names, “victory” and “honor”, for two very different exhibitions. Fragonard, named in fact Jean-Honoré (Honoré Fragonard was the painter’s cousin, more interested in Thanatos than Eros…), died in 1806, and by then Bonaparte had become Napoleon entirely. Victor Hugo was born in 1802 –a date echoed in his famous poem “Ce siècle avait deux ans…”– and he would call the Bonaparte of his times, Napoleon III, “Napoléon le Petit”. Therefore, to compare Jean-Honoré and Victor may be arbitrary, yet I can’t help but see them as two faces of the same coin, as a photographic positive with its negative (but who is what?), as the two-faced Roman god Janus. Continue reading

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exhibition, painting, Paris

Hooray for Hookers! (at Orsay)

1 Inscription sur le livre d'or

[Long live the whores / Hooray for hookers] Note on the exhibition’s guestbook

Before one visits Splendour and Misery. Pictures of Prostitution, 1850-1910 at the Musée d’Orsay (until January 17, 2016), one wonders a bit anxiously if this exhibition will be as empty as Masculin Masculin, as superficial as L’Ange du Bizarre, or on the contrary as stimulating as the one on Sade, which moved me deeply. It was not as overwhelming as the latter, but it was definitely instructive: this exhibition is pedagogically very interesting, as it describes very well the political, social, moral, economic context in which prostitution fostered in the nineteenth century, as it exposes its mechanisms, as it characterizes its protagonists and its spaces. The exhibition presents prostitution as a coded, regulated universe, with its laws, its consumer guides, its idiosyncrasies, such as the ambiguous gestures designed to show the goods and to lure in the client. This is what Édouard Manet illustrated in 1880, drawing only boots, a bit of uncovered shin and a red dress, three clues that make the lady’s trade abundantly clear to the audience.

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