Sunday, October 24, 2010

Back to the FIAC

OK, OK, I was still recuperating from the time zone changes the other day. I went back to the Grand Palais and had a great visit today, even after waiting more than one hour, sometimes under the rain with a valid ticket in my pocket. The crowd would not bulge.
I did some shopping, why not a small Chamberlain in my office, a Cy Twombly for the waiting room, a Joan Mitchell for the entrance. Donald Judd would match my furniture in the living-room.
Of course I am jocking...but I am dreaming, and like many visitors, making pictures, our way of owning part of these chefs- d'oeuvres. Sometimes there is a small red dot on the wall, but not too many, and usually they are near works from well-known artists.

Like the other visitors, one more look...till next year.

short notes, on the road
photographs by the author
right: "Chicago Caryatid #4", 1979, Lynda Benglis
left: "Abat-jour #2", 1919, Man Ray

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Around the FIAC

The long week-end at the FIAC in Paris includes a visit to other art shows like SLICK, Show Off, Art Elysees, Access and Paradox and more.

As a tradition, I spend a few hours in Le Marais and this time visited Access and Paradox, rue Vieille du Temple.

The exhibition located in the indoor market is a mixture of galleries, associations, private and public institutions with 32 stands. The artists represented are from France, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, and one artist from Sarajevo. UNESCO is involved in this project as part of the program "2010, International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures."

The presentations were very interesting indeed, but I will not detail each of them which would be tedious. A gallery from Norway has an installation and performances, unfortunately, these are scheduled, and time is precious during the FIAC, I could not wait.

I noticed the work from Luc Kheradmand with "Agonizing Memories", 2009-2010, presented by a young gallery (ISDEAD) which is relocating in Belleville in a few months (work is in progress).
It is a collection of documents from 50 computer viruses which have contaminated the Internet from 1980 till 2009, selected by the artist because they give a glimpse into the personal history of the authors or the history of cyberculture.The work is composed of two parts, a book and the viruses stored on memory cards (follow the link on "Agonizing Memories" to look at it.) Most of the quotes on the book are poems like the virus LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT, citations, complaints. The artist is building "an archeology of the future."

Lina Scheynius, a swedish photographer, made me feel like a voyeur. Through a peephole I could look at white and black photographs of her daily life, one per day, for a year, some very personal, each a page of her photographic diary.

Another event was taking place on the first floor: "Art by Telephone". Fourteen artists mailed the material needed to build their work. On the receiving side, two curators are following the instructions from the artists, by videoconference, and build the work. The telephone used in the past by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy in 1922 is now the Internet and I can see (briefly) one artist on the screen. Unfortunately, technology can be tricky and the picture disappears. The sound is almost inaudible at times and the show appears quite desorganized... I never had a chance to see the artist's production.

no photgraphs were allowed

Thursday, October 21, 2010

1/2 FIAC

Today, I visited the FIAC at the Grand Palais. Compared to last year, the crowd was sparse. Was it because of the strikes in Paris? If I had not read the papers I would not have noticed the disruptions, at least in my area.
The gallerists appeared morose and the visitors were not buying.
Space is plentiful. Last year, a mezzanine was adding square footages and well-known galleries had created a sanctuary-like structure, surrounded by private guards to show their best pieces.
Overall, the galleries did not bring great treasures this year, but mainly small minor paintings from well-known artists, sometimes straight from the seller, still hanging in questionable frames.
Noticeable were works from Louise Bourgeois, who died this year, Joan Mitchell and Lynda Benglis, also two works from Jean-Michel Basquiat. A great restropective of the artist is taking place at the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.
This is my first impression, usually the right one.
I still have to visit the other half, at the Cour Carree du Louvre. I may even go back to the Grand case I missed something.

short note, on the road...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The King of the streets

Waiting for the opening of the FIAC tomorrow, I could not miss the exhibition "Basquiat" at the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. A retrospective of Jean-Michel Basquiat 's works (1960-1988) planned for his 50's anniversary.

The story of his short life is centered mainly around Manhattan where he became known for his graffitis signed SAMO. The early graffitis begin the exhibition, with their primitive symbols and drawings, arrows, suns: cave art in the street. As we progress along the rooms, the technique changes and the colors become brighter and brighter, till they reach a caribbean flavor, with the subject often drawn in black on sharp reds, oranges, yellow, blue backgrounds. The paintings are violent and the language becomes personal with symbols like the crown. The artist paints everything including old refrigerators, wooden panes, bags, with ferocity. He is translating the violence of the street on the canvass and becomes the voice of the anti-establishment and presents himself as a paria. Through his paintings, he makes the kings of the street become part of the art world.
A number of paintings refer to the anatomy of the human body, like "Skull", 1981. The artist describes the horror of being, a skull with black content and bones like a cage or a prison. Using what he calls his "cultural memory", he offers a glimpse into the underworld where kings get their heads cut off and pictures himself as a young derelict.
The works of Jean-Michel Basquiat are noticed and soon are hanging on the walls of the galleries. His message becomes political, the words are changing: liberty, skinheads, asbestos, negroes... He creates "Slave Auction", 1982, "Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta", 1983 and "Revised Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta". The only light painting is "Self-portrait with Suzanne", 1982, with pastel colors and a happy subject.
The works loose their spontaneity. The association with Andy Warhol is not a success for Basquiat. He has become a member of the new establishment but his voice is chocking. One more time, he tries to reach his roots and compose paintings with subjects related to Voodoo, african masks. The result? an advertisement like "Zydeco", 1984 or the caricature of an african-american on gold background "Gold Griot", 1984. His preoccupation with death becomes overhelming and he composes one of his last piece called "Eroica II", 1988. The colors are flat, heavy and the composition has lost all energy.
The king of the street is no more.
The retrospective is very extensive with 100 paintings, drawings, objects. But some viewers cannot be reached. The german couple next to me shakes their heads, and the lady from the 16th arrondissement honestly declares that she will never understand. The giant fishhook on "Revised Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta" is not a threat to the catfish, but to african- americans who used to be hung from trees. How can we understand the graffitis without walking in some areas of NYC?

Jean-Michel Basquiat was so young when he died twenty two years ago, if...

photograph by the author: ENOB, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1985 at the FIAC

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tantrums, Accumulations, and more...New Realism

In Paris, the first visit on my list: Arman (1928-2005) at the Centre Pompidou. I was curious to see a restropective of the artist who made the news when I grew up. Would I find his works provocative? irrelevant?

The visit brought me along the artist's path, from his Allures, his Cachets in the 1950's and 60's to the last piece called The Day After, 1984. The exhibition was presented by themes and more or less chronological order. Poubelles, Coleres and Coupes, Accumulations, Art Industry. The object is shattered, recreated, accumulated and acquires a soul in the process, brings the emotion: repulsion in front of the Poubelles Organiques (Organic Garbages), horror when looking at the Accumulation of gas masks titled "Home Sweet Home", 1960, discomfort in front of the "Portrait-robot of Eliane", a morbid display of her personal belongings. The "Portrait-robot of Yves Klein" , his friend, is touching, a judo uniform, an old tie, a crumbled letter, a blue page, a leaf, like relics in the transparent square box. The works can bring a smile, "Kill them all and let God sort them out" an accumulation of insects sprays or serious thoughts, "The Massacre of the Innocents", an accumulation of broken dolls.

With his Tantrums or Rages, the artist destroys the object, and I still cannot understand why so many instruments inspired this violence: banjos, mandolines, violins, cellos, pianos, trumpets... I understand the broken televisions, tables, cars...

Along the works, great videos from the artist can be looked at, also a very special document, the manifest of the New Realism signed by Arman, Yves Klein, Restany and others.

The last section (1980's) shows Arman, painter again, using colors with the same rage. He throws the paint directly on the canvas, walks on it, smashes the tubes. Some of his late works appear fake, Arman becomes a caricature and like any artist repeating himself, his message becomes flat like in "Hello Jackson" 1990, "Starry Night", 1995 or "Desert Bike", 1991.

The exhibition finishes with one of his darker work: "The Day After" made in bronze, a remake of his Combustions from the 1970s: a show of the anguish caused by the destruction of a civilization represented by the object which represents that it?

I highly recommend this exhibition, the curators have ensured that all the major works of the artist are included and presented in an interesting context.

Arman still surprises me. His message is relevant today. The headline news are about crowds burning cars in France, adolescents destroying the objects which define the daily world they resent and feel powerless to change.

photographs were not allowed

bottom photograph from the author: "La Victoire de Salemotrice", 1967, Accumulation Renault

Monday, October 11, 2010


The preparation for a trip to Paris starts on the Internet. The art scene is busy in October. From the 21th till the 24th, the FIAC brings together 194 galleries and 3500 artists at the Grand Palais and Le Louvre with works exposed along the Jardins des Tuileries.

Just around the corner, an exhibition of Monet's works takes place also at the Grand Palais.

The Musee d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris is showing a retrospective of Jean Michel Basquiat's works and the Centre Pompidou has two outstanding exhibitions one dedicated to Arman and the other to Gabriel Orozco.

Takashi Murakami is at the Chateau de Versailles.

And more... I have to visit ADDICT Galerie, and a number of galleries in "Le Marais" area and I have been invited to a photographer friend's new studio!

Strikes are on the horizon and may change some of my plans...but walking in Paris is not that bad after all.