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, 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, installation, Paris, poetry, sculpture

Of Museums as Freezers (Carl Andre)

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Carl Andre, poem, 1982

The Carl Andre exhibition at the MAMVP (October 18, 2016 – February 12, 2017) is a very good retrospective, ranging from his –large-scale or miniature– sculptures to his visual poems (lesser-known works, albeit their formal beauty is truly captivating, beyond meaningfulness). But something is arresting: the gap, probably an unbridgeable one, between the artist’s original intentions and the way his artworks are displayed in museums.

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exhibition, Paris, photography

The Leica-Wielding Dancer (Henri Cartier-Bresson)

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Granted, the exhibition “Images à la Sauvette” at the Fondation Cartier-Bresson (January 11 – April 23, 2017) is a great opportunity to see most of the photographs published in the eponymous –and mythical– album, be it for the first time or once again. Undoubtedly, it will be an interesting discovery for neophytes, and a refresh of pleasant memories for long-time amateurs of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work. But it seemed there were no surprises, nothing original, until I happened on a short 1’40’’ film, shown in a nook, in which we can see the Frenchman at work (although he apparently hated being photographed of filmed), caught in action by the American photographer Gjon Mili. The scene takes place during the celebrations for the Chinese New Year in New York, in 1959: paper dragons, firecrackers, a crowd… nothing extraordinary, just partying. But in the midst of this crowd, we see a man dancing, jumping, bouncing around in whirls and zigzags, gently elbowing his way, taking a step back, two steps aside, three steps forward, ready for anything.

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event, exhibition, Paris, photography

Luminescent Specters (Paolo Gioli)

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Paolo Gioli, Luminescenti, 2010, polaroid, 20x25cm

Two series of photographs by Paolo Gioli are currently on show at SAGE Paris gallery, until November 6, including these images of ancient sculptures, bathed in a green light that gives them an eerie presence.

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Paolo Gioli, Luminescenti, exhibition view, François Sage Gallery

This wall of photographs will be on display at Paris Photo; to find out more about them, you can read the little book in which I wrote on those series – I will sign it at the gallery’s booth (C30) during the fair, Saturday, November 12, 3pm. Come!

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exhibition, Paris, photography

Revisiting the History of Photography (1. Jan Dibbets)

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Anton Giulio Bragaglia and Arturo Bragaglia, Salutando, 1911, 17.5x23cm, Galleria civica in Modeno

To question the nature of photography is the aim of Pandora’s Box, an exhibition curated by Jan Dibbets at the MAMVP in Paris (a museum the artist is familiar with), from March 25 to July 17, 2016. Hailing from conceptual art, Dibbets was among the first to examine photography itself (alongside William Anastasi, then Michael Snow, John Hilliard, Tim Rautert and Ugo Mulas). Around 1970, he created a series of photographs addressing the processes and mechanisms of photography , as well as its essence, as opposed to the images represented: the “how” of photography rather than its “what.” In this exhibition, Dibbets presses forward with these same concerns, reframing them within the history of photography, and nourishing them with readings of Vilém Flusser’s ideas –a thinker he discovered while preparing the exhibition. (This fact was of great interest to me, of course; it is more thoroughly explained in a video of his interview with Fabrice Hergott than in the catalogue).
Pandora’s Box has been put together by an artist, not an art historian, and therefore there were some liberties taken, some partial choices made, some incongruous selections (especially in the last section, which was quite disappointing), and some bizarre omissions (from the five precursors I just cited, only Anastasi and Snow are featured, and Mulas’ absence in particular is baffling, if it is not simply a petty move by Dibbets). Those choices will appeal or not to the visitor, but –at least until the last section– they make for a compelling exhibition. Continue reading

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exhibition, Paris, photography

Seydou Keïta, Fascination & Ambiguity

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Seydou Keïta, Untitled, 1956-1957 (printed 1997), 120x180cm [left]; Untitled, 1958 (printed 1997), 120x180cm [right]

Seydou Keïta’s work (on view at the Grand Palais, March 31 – July 11, 2016), one of the great African photographers, is both fascinating and ambiguous. Fascinating because Keïta’s undeniable talent as a portraitist bestows unparalleled dignity and beauty on his models. He is one of the first to go beyond semi-ethnographic portraits of stereotyped Africans, standing stiffly with their official insignia (whether they were dignitaries or constables – the one pictured above is the latter), and neither inclined nor allowed to demonstrate any sign of individuality. Keïta pushes back against this Eurocentric and colonial gaze, and goes beyond it in letting his models’ personality shine through, in seeing them as human beings in their own right, with their styles, personalities, emotions, with their grace or their pride – like this young woman featured on the exhibition poster (pictured above, left). The contrast between the two portraits displayed side by side is a good indication of the radical change Keïta heralds, an upheaval in the way we look at African men and women. Continue reading

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