exhibition, Paris, photography

Eli Lotar, Beyond the Slaughterhouses

1 Eli Lotar, Aux Abattoirs de La Villette, 1929, coll-

Eli Lotar, Aux Abattoirs de La Villette [At La Villette’s Slaughterhouses], 1929, coll. Metropolitan Museum, NYC

For most people, the name Eli Lotar [.pdf] first evokes images like this photo of calves’ feet (and a close-up shot of the same subject), shot at La Villette’s slaughterhouses [.pdf] in 1929. The reason behind this probably is the true documental dimension of his reportage, plus its Surrealist-inflected execution: in one of the pictures, it is Pierre Prévert, the poet’s brother, who is looking at a pile of offal on the ground, the series being commissioned by Documents, George Bataille’s journal, to illustrate the entry “Slaughterhouse” in the “Dictionary” section.

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exhibition, Paris, photography

To Each His/Her Kollar

François Kollar, Porteur de

François Kollar, Rail trackman, Arles, 1933, Réattu Museum.

Must one have worked as a blue-collar worker in order to accurately photograph them? Such a demand is rarely formulated when it comes to legionnaires, pearl divers, politicians or prostitutes, yet the idea imbues everything that has been written about François Kollar (at the Jeu de Paume, until May 22, 2016), from the tagline “Un ouvrier du regard / A Working Eye” to the press review. It might be relevant –if it was shown and sustained, if we were graced with explanations demonstrating how Kollar’s photographic eye differs formally and esthetically from photographers such as Kilip, Hine, Doisneau… who never clocked in at any factory, to my knowledge, whereas Kollar did, at Renault’s, in Billancourt (if only for two years). But the actual difference between those “sons of Kulaks” (not to mention others like the very bourgeois Thiollier) and Kollar-the-former-manual-worker is never argued for, and the moniker rings hollow, like an all-too-convenient mantra. Continue reading

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contemporary art, Paris, photography, Porto

Helena Almeida, Artist Incarnate

1 Helena Almeida, A casa (la

Helena Almeida, A casa [The House], 1979, 40x29cm. Coll. Mario Sequeira

Helena Almeida’s exhibition, shown in Porto at the Serralves Foundation (October 17, 2015 – January 10, 2016) under the name “My work is my body, my body is my work”, is travelling to Paris: it will be presented at the Jeu de Paume, titled “Corpus” (February 9 – May 22, 2016). Finally, the body is addressed by the contemporary Portuguese art scene, which almost never does so, focusing instead on the concept, on humor, on history, and thus neglecting embodiment, and the (very few) artists who have made the body the focal point of their work (Helena Almeida, Jorge Molder also, and the occasional young artist, including Brazilians living in Portugal, like Lizi Menezes…). And this goes beyond contemporary art: I visited the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga with a friend a few days ago, which obviously features bodies in its collections of classical paintings and sculptures –but are those bodies naked? No way! In searching dutifully every nook and cranny of the Museum, I found one and only one female breast outrageously naked (save for a few Virgins breastfeeding, a few damned souls in hell, and a tiny allegory on ivory), by a Dutch painter. No Venuses, no Graces. Granted, this beautiful museum features, on the other hand, some Bosch, and more daring temporary exhibitions, but what a strange national puritanism in visual arts, not only concerning nudes but more simply the reluctance to give prominence to bodies (but this is not true for dance or film –if anyone can clue me in…). Continue reading

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