Robert Polidori, Salle de Crimée Sud, 2007, courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve
Josef Hoflehner, Bondi Baths (Sydney, Australia, 2011)
Paris Photo is big this year. It’s at the Grand Palais with over 160 galleries and publishers plus curated sections from Harald Falkenberg’s collection, the Instituto Moreira Salles, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Museum Folkwang. The Paris Photo Platform welcomes photographers, critics and curators for talks throughout the event (This afternoon, Martin Parr at 2pm! Sunday afternoon Nicolas Bourriaud of Ensba in conversation with Philippe Parreno!)
The bulk of what is on show is, of course, not an exhibition but a shopping opportunity for the financially unchallenged. Here is my dream shopping list (or a list of recommendations, should you wish to part with a few thousand this weekend… ):
Robert Polidori‘s La Mémoire des Murs. Ragged-looking interiors and faded grandeur of the Chateau de Versailles under restoration in the 1980s, abandoned interiors of Pripyat (near Chernobyl) (Karsten Greve, also currently on show in the gallery).
Vik Muniz’s painstakingly assembled photo-collages, in particular the one after Hieronymous Bosch (Ben Brown Fine Arts).
Femme/Objet is the first retrospective of British feminist punk artist Linder Sterling (or just “Linder”). The Great Exposition made it to the artist’s opening presentation of the show.
Linder has the kindly face of your friend’s mother, making it all the more incongruous as she describes her intellectual interest in pornography in a softly spoken voice, barely audible over the noise of a video showing her younger self screaming into a mic during a gig with her band Ludus at Manchester’s legendary Haçienda club in 1982. During said concert Linder wore a dress with a bodice weaved out of meat (way ahead of ms Gaga who went to the MTV Video Music awards clad head to toe in meat in 2010). Under her net skirt, which she whips off during the performance, Linder wore a dildo, clearly visible in the video pointing and bouncing around aggressively at the gradually retreating crowd.
Linder, Orgasm Addict single cover for the Buzzcocks, 1977
Linder continues to be involved in performance art but the main body of her work is photography and photo-montage. Her early collages use found images and splice naked women with domestic appliances (she designed the single cover for the Buzzcocks’ Orgasm Addict, showing the torso of a naked woman with an iron for a head). Searching through gendered magazines in the 1970s, Linder had the realisation that what they had in common were women’s bodies and the image of women: fashion, homes and domesticity in women’s magazines; naked women in men’s porn magazines. Her interest in magazines led her to Manchester’s only porn outlet at the time. “I had to be very brave” she says.
This seems quite quaint compared with modern internet-driven pornography. “We went to Pigalle”, says Linder, exchanging conspiratorial glances with Emmanuelle de l’Ecotais, the show’s curator, “for research, But print media in porn is nearly over”. In the light of these changes Linder’s more recent work has something of the nostalgic about it. Using negatives unearthed from the 1960s, she continues to create montages which mix (now) retro-looking naked women with flowers, outsized mouths and garish-looking cakes. Although coming from a feminist place, the collages are not without humour. In a series from 2011, Postliminalrites, pictures of snakes or cactuses – nudge nudge wink wink – are placed in front of genitals. The original images in the series come from a specialized magazine for “transsexual horse lovers”. As Linder says, with the decline of the printed porn magazine, “there’s only really weird stuff left”.
Doisneau, Paris Les Halles, currently on at l’Hôtel de Ville, gives us a glimpse of Les Halles as is was pre-1969, when is was still Paris’ central food market for professionals, restauranteurs and ordinary Parisians. The architecture, the “Pavillons de Baltard” constructed in the 1860s, looks like a cross between the nef (“nave”) of the Grand Palais and some of Paris’ surviving covered markets, but the ambiance captured by Doisneau seems far from anything in Paris today: expansive walls of hanging poultry, deer and other game piled high, cheery merchants brandishing offal, selling flowers or pulling delivery carts. When the market was moved to Rungis in 1969, Doisneau said “Paris perd son ventre et un peu de son esprit” (“Paris has lost its belly and a bit of its soul”). While one’s sentimental side may agree, a more practical, public-sanitation aware side of us breathes a sigh of relief.
The old site of the market is of course going through another renaissance as the 1970s Forum des Halles is torn down to make way for a new model.
Doisneau, Les Halles is on at the Hôtel de Ville until 28/04/12, free entry.
Charles Marville, the construction of the avenue de l’Opéra
Charles Marville, Construction of the Buttes Chaumont
This small exhibition, at the Academie d’architecture is a must for all Paris history enthusiasts. Juxtaposing Charles Marville‘s photos of pre-Hausmann Paris and contemporary photographs, the show makes you realise how much the aesthetics of modern Paris are the result of Baron Haussmann‘s 19th century urban planning. Narrow streets give way to wide boulevards, tall rickety buildings become uniform apartments and wastelands become sites of urban leisure.
Just sometimes you find yourself at an exhibition-opening, wondering what all the hype is about. This was the case at the Galerie du Jour and the Swiss Cultural Centre on Friday night’s opening of two new exhibitions, Musique Plastique and Echoes et Unisson, exploring the relationship between music and art.
The show at the Galerie du Jour brings together ”artist-musicians” or “musician-artists”, and includes a range of international talent with heavy-hitters from the music world, including Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth) and Brian DeGraw (of Gang Gang Dance), as well as artists that cross over into the musical scene, like Swedish artist Tobias Bernstrup, Elvis wannabe Arnaud Maguet and Jean Luc Verna, who previously brought us this version of Funkytown, while dancing in drag on a giant turd.
Despite the impressive list of participating artists, the overwhelming impression is that, actually the results of this art-music cross-over are neither good music nor good art.
But Musique Plastique is not meant to be just an exhibition: it is also a series of concerts/performances/workshops/ conferences, as well as a catalogue and a compilation. So perhaps there is more than meets the eye…
Echoes et Unisson, at the Swiss Cultural Centre, deals less with the cross-fertilization between the two disciplines and more with the influence of music on the visual arts. From pop icons to musical instrument forms and memorabilia-inspired installations. The Unisson part of the show, by Swiss artist Francis Baudevin, unites photos, fanzines and posters in an installation that explores the links between the New York and Swiss musical scens in the 1980s (no I didn’t know there was a scene in Switzerland either).
Constantin Luser, Vibrosaurus Linae, 2008
Philippe Gronon, Ampli Fender n°1, 2003
I was underwhelmed by both shows but I’d love to know what you think – did I miss the gems amongst the crowd?
Moebius-Transe-Forme is the first major exhibition of the work of Jean Giraud, known by his pseudonyms Gir and Moebius. The two characterisations of the artist have different styles – Gir is the author of classic Westerns, revolving around the character Blueberry (sounds like a kids’ TV character but is actually a swarthy US Army Lieutenant) and Moebius is the author of a more fantastical sci-fi universe. The scenography of the show reflects the comic strip form upstairs, while downstairs the dark twinkly atmosphere is designed to complement the artist’s explorations of dreams and the mystery of existence.
The exhibition includes drawings, preparatory studies, comic books and paintings as well as a 3-D animated film directed by the Jean Giraud, La Planète encore, and a quirky documentary on the artist. Despite all this, the whole experience is slightly underwhelming. Perhaps this is because I didn’t grow up with Gir or Moebius.
Le Bal, Paris’ newest photography venue, brings us Cinq étranges albums de famille. The idea of a family album unites the work of five very different artists in this poignant show.
These are not your usual family albums – Emmet Gowin’s black and white family photos are from the series Danville, taken in the late sixties. Some appear staged, others more natural, and all are simultaneously intimate and somewhat voyeuristic. A contemporary of Gowin, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, clearly staged his photos. His series, entitled The family album of Lucybelle Crater, looks like any other family album at a glance, showing his wife and other friends and acquaintances. On closer inspection the subjects are all wearing creepy halloween masks.
Sadie Benning’s film Flat is beautiful also has her subjects in masks – of the crude papier maché variety this time. The masks, coupled with the quality of the film – filmed with Pixelvision, a primitive camcorder marketed to kids, and Super 8, put the film’s characters at a distance from the viewer, as though a fly on the wall of somebody else’s family dynamic. Argentinian photographer, Alessandra Sanguinetti also investigates a family dynamic outside her own. Her series, The adventures of Guille and Belinda and the Enigmatic Meaning of their Dreams, is perhaps the highlight of the show, with photos and video clips of two cousins whom Sanguinetti began photographing in 1999. What started as a game became a long running series, with Sanguinetti documenting the adolescence and early adulthood of these two girls (the project is ongoing). The touching photos of childhood fantasies give way to more contemplative mood as the cousins grow up and one of them moves towards motherhood.
From the documenting of other people’s lives to the deeply personal, Erik Kessels film My Sister is based on 2 minutes of Super 8 footage he found of himself and his sister playing ping pong in the garden. Kessels sister died twenty five years ago in an accident. The film, which Kessels says is the “most personal work [he has] ever made” is a collaboration between Kessels, Marlene Dumas and Ryuichi Sakamoto, and deals with the loss and enduring memory of his sister.
“La Belle France” is well documented, especially in the tourist imagination. Poster shops in central Paris tell you all you need to know: bohemian Paris, lavendar fields, a year in Provence, vineyards, baguettes… From this point of view Raymond Depardon’s exhibition of photos, from his series La France, is a breath of fresh air. Depardon has spent many years investigating France’s deprived regions as a photographer and documentary filmmaker and has been working on La France since 2004. The resulting series may include stunning mountain scenes and lovely beaches but they are not your stereotypical postcard views, and they are in amongst mediocre-looking shop fronts, road side cafés and grey suburban developments. Largely unpopulated, the photos pick out details of the mundane: an empty souless-looking road with a traditional cemetery in the background, a sign promoting meat outside a closed supermarket, a man cleaning a beachside pool. Depardon also rejects the digital age with this project, choosing instead to travel around the country with a 7 x 9 photographic chamber.
The second part of the exhibition shows some of Depardon’s influences (Walker Evans, Paul Strand) but is less impressive than the main room of Depardon’s photos. I felt a little hard done by in the bookshop afterwards as the exhibition catalogue has at least twice as many photos as the exhibition itself. This seems a shame – perhaps budgets were stretched – but I could gladly have forgone the second part of the show for another room of large prints from the Depardon series.
La France de Raymond Depardon is on at the BnF (Mitterand site) until 09/01/11
Sally Mann, Candy Cigarette from the series Immediate Family, 1990
Karsten Greve presents a solo show of American photographer, Sally Mann, that is in turn alarming and sublime. Perhaps most famous for her series Immediate Family, photographs of her children taken in the 1990s, Mann also experiments with outdated photographic techniques to capture the lush landscapes of her native southern states in Deep South and photographs the effects of muscular dystrophy on her husband’s body in Proud Flesh. In this latter series, the ageing body is photographed with brutal frankness. Often fragments of the body are isolated and treated as an abstract element of an interior landscape.
The Jeu de Paume presents a retrospective of photographer André Kertész (1894 – 1985), recognised as one of the greats of avant-garde photography. After taking up photography in his native Hungary, Kertész then moved to Paris, where he spend a decade fraternizing with other émigré artists (including hungarian sculptor Etienne Beöthy and Piet Mondrian) and capturing the streets and sights of Paris in his own innovative style. He moved to New York in 1936, where he settled.
André Kertész, Distortion #40, 1933
Kertész avoided the early 20th century -isms (particularly surrealism), but his explorations of composition, distortions, cropping and shadow are all testament to his contribution to photographic language. He was also key in the development of photojournalism, with numerous photo series published in books and magazines. Despite the variety of subjects photographed by Kertész, a slight melancholie pervades his oeuvre, whether in the form of a solitary figures on rain-sodden Paris streets, a snow-covered Washington Square Park or a single bird caught in flight against deserted urban chimney stacks.
André Kertész, Place Gambetta, 1929
André Kertész is on at the Jeu de Paume until 06/02/11, then it is travelling to Winterthur, Berlin and Budapest.