Monday, January 14, 2013

Elles:Pompidou - Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris

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A Collage of Some of Our Favorite Artists at Elle:Pompidou Exhibition
A Collage of Some of Our Favorite Artists at Elle:Pompidou Exhibition
This exhibition ran at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) from Oct 11, 2012 - Jan 13, 2013. We caught it on the last day. I was a bit hesitant to attend as I kept hearing things like “the show is daring” and “bound to have everyone talking” which works in reverse for me in terms of generating interest. The exhibition introduction states that the survey isn’t about feminist art, but rather a show of the diversity of women artists in the 20th century. And that it is.

We spent the bulk of our time with the elles:pompidou works on the fourth floor and considerable less time at the companion exhibit elles:sam on the third floor. The real standout in elles:sam was the large space dedicated to Yayoi Kusama. According to the SAM guide: “Plagued with hallucinations since childhood, she has repeatedly stated that painting pictures has been an inspiration and a form of therapy for her.” I would love to know the connection of this statement to the design aspects of Kusama’s work.

I enjoyed the first half elles:pompidou much better than the second half. The first half had works by Sonia Delaunay, Natalia Gontcharova, Romaine Brooks, Claude Cahun, Gisèle Freund, Suzanne Valadon, Dora Maar, Dorothea Tanning, and Geneviève Asse. In particular Tanning’s Portrait de famille (Portrait of a family) 1954 and Asse’s Triptyque lumière (Illuminated Triptych) 1970-1971 were standouts for me.

The second half of the show seemed to veer in a more in-your-face direction with Valie Export, Niki de Saint-Phalle, Nan Goldin, and other “disorienting” (for me that is) video works. I wanted to “get” Ana Mendieta’s Untitled (Chicken Piece Shot #2) and Carolee Schneerman’s Meat Joy 1964, but I didn’t. I registered them in my mind, but I couldn’t get beyond that. The one second-half piece that piqued my interest was Annette Messager’s Les Pensionnaires (The Boarders) 1971-1972 where taxodermied sparrows in hand-knitted clothes are arranged in eerie configurations, some with mechanized devices attached. Give me dead birds in little sweaters over video any day. Speaking of video, in the first half of the exhibit there was a video by Marie-Ange Guillemot called Mes poupées (My Dolls) 1993 which was a bit of an odd juxtaposition with what was immediately around it artwork-wise. In the video, the artist massages a dough-like object in a fold that looks like crotch.

Elles:Pompidou Map and Guide with Audio Stops
Elles:Pompidou Map and Guide with Audio Stops

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