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, 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

Revisiting the History of Photography (1. Jan Dibbets)

1 Anton Giulio et Arturo Bragaglia.jpg

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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contemporary art, exhibition, Paris

A Mystical Warhol?

Andy Warhol, Mao, 1973, acrylic paint and silk-screen printing on canvas

Andy Warhol, Mao, 1973, acrylic paint and silk-screen printing on canvas

With one exception (but what an exception!), if you are familiar with Andy Warhol’s work, you will not discover new artworks in the exhibition Warhol Unlimited at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris (until February 7). You will find the well-known flowers and cows, Jackie and the electric chairs, Marilyn and Mao, Campbell and Brillo. The exhibition’s strongest point (until its penultimate room) lies in its scenography, which is remarkable. This well-thought use of space is also crucial to Warhol’s art since it was first and foremost an art of the exhibition, a game of repetition that undermined the very role of the museum. Warhol’s œuvre is carefully contextualized as well, from the texts on the walls to the catalogue (which emphasizes a lot Warhol’s positive reception and discussion in criticism).

Andy Warhol, Screen Test: Marcel Duchamp, 1966, screenshot: Coll: Andy Warhol Museum Pittsburgh

Andy Warhol, Screen Test: Marcel Duchamp, 1966, screenshot: Coll: Andy Warhol Museum Pittsburgh

I had two striking experiences during the exhibition, first, to wander in the Screen Tests room (in which Duchamp is the coolest by far), where Empire and Blow Job are also shown, but not Couch, too rarely featured. Second, to be saturated with images and sounds in the hallucinogenic reenactment of Ronald Nameth’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable.
Save for the last room, the large curved room of the MAMVP, all of this would only amount to an informative revisiting of Warhol within common well-marked areas and, at least in my eyes, with an heightened sense of scenography.

Andy Warhol, Shadows, 1978-79, acrylic paint and silk-screen printing. ph. Bill Jacobson, courtsey Dia Foundation & MAMVP.

Andy Warhol, Shadows, 1978-79, acrylic paint and silk-screen printing. ph. Bill Jacobson, courtsey Dia Foundation & MAMVP.

In this last room are displayed the 102 silk-screened canvases of the Shadows series, in 17 colors, stretching on 130 meters. What are we in front of? First, an immersive experience, a universe that completely surrounds us and resonates with us (Mark Loiacono mentions the Scrovegni Chapel in a remarkable essay from the catalogue titled “Disco Mystic” after Lou Reed, a piece of writing to which I am indebted). Then, an enigmatic pattern, like an illegible detail of an over-blown-up photograph, like a play between positive and negative: the master of shadows, Victor Stoichita, writes about a sort of passing of the torch, from de Chirico’s stories of shadows to Warhol’s story-less shadows (de Chirico died a month before Warhol started working on this series). Also, in some way, we experience a mystical feeling, almost a religious one (Dagen reads it as funereal; on the contrary I see a jubilant ecstasy). The series were commissioned by Heiner Friedrich (who was overwhelmed by the Giottos in Padova, precisely, and who spent a whole night alone in the Rothko chapel) and Philippa de Menil (daughter of the famous couple of art collectors) who met Friedrich at this occasion and went on to marry him seven year later. The couple converted to Islam afterwards, practiced Sufism, dared to make a mosque out of an old fire station in New York, and founded what became the Dia Foundation. Maybe this mystical relation to God, unmitigated, is the very thing Warhol translated in this series (he was far from indifferent to religion himself). Or, in any case, we can experience such a feeling in this final room, if, following in Warhol’s footsteps, we open our minds, and let them flow outside the museum and the artworld.

Read this article:
in the original French; alt.
in Spanish

Original publication date: October 21, 2015.

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