Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Decadence Now: Vision of Excess"

The title is promising and the exhibition quite ambitious.

Located in the Rudolphinum (Prague, Czech Republic), one of the oldest concert hall, hosting the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, the Gallery focuses on contemporary art and, for this exhibition, on decadence in art going back over the past 30 years.
Upon crossing a vast hall, climbing a staircase to reach the gallery, the visitor is overwhelmed by the quiet, heavy atmosphere and plunges into the first room, a collection of self-portraits from well known artists like Maplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, Catherine Opie, David Wojnarowicz, Joel-Peter Witkin, Damien Hirst to name a few.
Deformed bodies, inflicted pain, degradation of the self, the photographs are disturbing.
Four more themes are the subject of the exhibition: Excess of the Body: Sex, Excess of the Beauty: Pop, Excess of the Mind: Madness, Excess of the Life: Death.

One feels repulsion, horror, fascination and intense emotions. All taboos are transgressed and the artists have reach a point beyond which there are no limits.
The media used for some works evokes pain , death, like the artist's blood for "Dessin au Sang #1" (1997) from ORLAN, Erwin Olaf' s academic portraits of princesses with blood splashing across their angelic faces or Geza Szollosi's work with "Project Flesh" (2004), which includes a female pelvis in formol.
Religion with "Saint Sebastian" (1978), "Was the Jesus Heterosexual" (2005) from Gilbert and George, "Veronica wipes the Face of Jesus" (2004), the Stations of the Cross Series from David Bailey and Damien Hirst, or pornography with Jeff Koons's "Blow Job-Ice", 1991, are followed by the last room occupied by works related to death.
At some point, I feel saturated. To rekindle the interest, I try humor, but this does not work, the subjects are very serious indeed.
Yes, it is disturbing, remote because in a museum, but close because of the subjects brought up by these works. We can all agree on the quality of the exhibition, bringing together great works.
"Room #13" is an extension to the theme Excess of Beauty, located across the street at the Museum of Decorative Arts and presents decadence in fashion and design. It is definitely weird with a collection of dolls complete with their death certificates.
More decadent exhibitions are taking place, at the Brno house of Arts with works of Joel-Peter Witkin, at the Gallery of West Bohemia in Pilsen with works of Ivan Pinkava, at the DOX gallery in Prague with works of Gilbert and George...

The booklet advertises decadent movie festivals, conferences, concerts, discussions...

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