Saturday, January 22, 2011

Elles@centrepompidou Musée National D’Art Moderne Collections Contemporaines, Centre Pompidou, Paris. by craniv boyd

Elles@centrepompidou Musée National D'Art Moderne Collections Contemporaines, Centre Pompidou, Paris. by craniv boyd


Jacksine Pollok, or Marcella Duchamp are these the names of modern artists whom you recognize? If you say yes chances are that you have been to the permanent collection of the national museum of modern art to see elles@centrepompidou.


Perhaps the exhibition title is reminiscent of an email address, please do not be alarmed by this, for contrary to first impressions given by the title it is a serious survey of the holdings of women artists and artists who happen to be women in the Centre Pompidou, curated by Camille Morineau curator at Centre Pompidou. No I do not think that you could email well you could but I don't know if there would be a response or a free thick exposition catalogue waiting for you if you try, but there is a large and heavy doorstopper catalogue as a companion of this survey of modern and contemporary.


Simplicity as a rubric for curatorial organization: perhaps when mounting a large survey show inclusive of many artists who have principally two things in common first their gender, women and second their vocation, artist, simple principals can be your savior when deciding which of what 80 or so artists to put next to the other in the same room. Following this logic, the largest most known and sculptural artists are together at the entrance, artists working with the color red are in one room, artists working with text are in another, politically charged activist type works are grouped in the hallway where there will be a large "hit-rate", artists working with performance and video documentation of their own nude or semi nude bodes are in another room close to the beginning of the survey, the abstractionists are in another room further back, artists and designers working with the home and what is domestic are some where in the middle and at the end we have immaterial a kind of ad hoc grouping of those prominent artists whose works were not clearly enough of one of the other aforementioned groupings to be included in one of the earlier rooms.


Seeing a Guerrilla Girls poster that is a political pastiche of a masterpiece French painting at the Louvre's Denon wing. Ingres Odalisque is the subject of many, diverse mechanical reproductions in this age, as a fake painting for the home popular in the 1950's in Nordic countries, and numerous posters and texts books. Yet now in Paris when you can see the real thing in all its glory in the Denon wing, while trying not to get trampled by the Holiday hoards rushing by with audio guides dangling from their necks to see the mythical Mona Lisa in the same wing. It is different, different still when utilized as feminist activist propaganda lesson in the hands of the Guerrilla Girls, the Odalisque is still naked but now her head is that of a Gorilla, she is photographically reproduced in grey-scale sans background and is offset buy garish high contrast yellow purple and black colors with boldface type that begins, I paraphrase, "Do women have to be naked to get into a museum? 3% of all artists in the permanent Collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York are Women but 80% of paintings of women in the same museum are Nudes" It is good that at least one of the worlds major institutions for modern and current art is collecting and exposing and promoting art in the institutional critique vein. Yet some how this kind of comical approach of the Guerrilla Girls that errs on the dogmatic can seem misplaced in an exhibition with mostly women artists in a permanent museum collection. On a side note one wonders if the Guerrilla Girls work critical of a major New York art institution, purchased by the major national collection for modern art in Paris, a capital that had or has a longstanding rivalry with New York City as the relevant art capital for the avant-garde. This work is including a strong reference/departure point of a painted French national treasure. 


Viewing industrial design of Kartell in the context of art museum. Kartell is popular for its plastic domestic objects, transparent "Ghost" chairs designed for Kartell by Philippe Starck were all the rage in pre-bankruptcy 2007 Iceland, and of course elsewhere on the globe too. To learn that Kartell is like the Ikea of Italy but founded by an Italian woman, with a passion for design instead of a Swedish man with a passion for design. The viewers are shown her functional yet beautiful objects for modern life in the kitchen. It is a more practical, accessible application of a machine for living idea of Le Corbusier. After all we all cannot live reasonably together in the Villa Savoy at the same time. But an orange plastic dish for your butter, that is something most modern occidental urban dwellers could afford should they choose to. The tendency of modern art museums, like MoMA or Pompidou to include modern industrial design contemporaneous with their art collections in exhibitions is strange. Yes all arts are related and there should be more awareness for the creative aspect of product design. Yet products no matter how novel remain just that, products. It is not a problem for MoMA to sell replicas of design artifacts in its gift shop. Likewise it is also not scandalous to have a design gift shop on the ground floor of the Pompidou flanking the long line for ticket sales to the Museum. But would it be controversial, or is there demand even for replicas of popular art works from the permanent collections of either of these museums? I guess it is just easier to sell design objects to people than modern art. In the broadening of the discourse of art witnessed in the past century, museums of modern art have gone into a kind of identity panic. Do we remain exclusively fine arts, or do we include under our umbrella of Modernism the new decorative arts "design"?


Seeing Eva Hess work with fiberglass and a series of paintings and sculptures by Louise Bourgeois in the same room. To view the works of tragic figure of modern art Eva Hesse is a rarity. Kudos to the Pompidou for collecting her work and a seminal work at that, her influence on installation art is still felt today, cocoon like structures, which could be mistaken for Kiki Smith sculptures. The Hallmarks of a great collection are not so much in the quantity and diversity of artists but I think rather in the quality depth and intensity with the artists collected, to have a series of paintings by one artist instead of only one master piece. Seeing a cycle of paintings about how the body feels anxiety in different parts of the body by Louise Bourgeois, one is reminded of the stylized representation of anxiety in Lars Von Treir's film Antichrist. Bourgeois, as a woman is interested in more parts of a woman's body than those of pulchritude, genitals, butt and chest area.


The rare pleasure of seeing a Marina Abromovic work without Marina Abromovic herself in it. Seeing Marina Abromovic's can be an inspired experience. More often than not you will see her with her work in some form be it grainy documentation photographs of 1970's performances or her in real-life sexagenarian and still going strong with extreme endurance pieces that occasionally involve self-flagellation, incising a pentagram with a razor blade on her own abdomen with an audience or lying naked on a bed of solid ice, a room with a view she lived in the gallery in specially constructed structures for the duration of the show, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Memorial Museum she reenacted earlier performances seven easy pieces, in tribute to the other performance artists of her generation, and in her sensationalistic retrospective at the MoMA last spring where she stayed seated unmoving for the duration of he exhibition, waiting to share her energy silently with museum spectators, in a amalgamation of celebrity, performance guru, hype, theme park ride, cult status eschewed through countless eulogizing in the new art academies. All this considered it is great to have the opportunity to see her work where she is not the work herself. Instead these three basic minimalist pedestals feed the narcissistic impulses of today's people yet at the same time give insight to what exactly Abromivic is striving towards and feeling during the enactment of her performances. Resting flat on ones back on the bronze shelf with a square pink quartz pillow to put your head on, you feel odd, to be lying in a public space yet not asleep, to be getting rest with out shutting your eyes. To be seated then on a perch of bronze like some kind of living art work and feel a kind of comfort and vertigo simultaneously. Completing the circuit by standing on the same kind of shelf the same materials, the same proportions with a different alignment one does it all Abromovic style, by standing, sitting, and lying down, the most basic states of repose for a human being.


Seeing Jenny Holzer lionized with her Inflammatory Essays series all at once on one wall.  Those familiar with American civics with know that the right of free speech is protected under the first amendment, whereas that of inflammatory or inciteful speech is not protected, the saying of do not shout 'fire!' in a crowded theatre, strange yet fitting that Holzer would adopt that French tradition of afficée in her early days, and what she would choose to placard all over the then rough and tumble streets of 1980's New York would be self titled as Inflammatory that special type of speech restricted by the constitution and supreme court of the United States. These placards are provocative but I strongly doubt if they really are legally speaking, incendiary. They do not directly tell the spectator to go out and break the law, or defect to the soviet union ect, there is a mock radically about this work, self proclaimed activism that somehow is moderately leftist, written rants that strike the viewer to have more of the issues of formalism at heart than a lucid political protest agenda. Yes it is art, the author of these inflammatory essays remains an enigma, one senses gender inequality issues as being important for the author but the reader cannot say from the essays alone that the writer is a man or a woman.


elles@centrepompidou is a refreshing experience in museum attendance, because it is an in depth charting of the modern condition in the works of women who are making art now. One would want to see more exhibitions of this nature with greater frequency all over, especially in New York City. Somehow the more women who are shown making art can be encouraging for other artists, regardless of gender because women are presenting ideas and face other forms of bias and confront other stereo types than men commonly do. If you are a Museum with a large holding in modern art made by women, why not show all that work in a large exhibition this year or sooner rather than later? Is it not great to provide youngsters with other career choices than pop star, Lawyer, or Medical Doctor? by craniv boyd

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