Sunday, May 20, 2018

Chagall, Lissistzky, Malévich at the Pompidou

 John and I liked a fascinating show at the Centre Pompidou recently, Chagall, Lissistzky, Malévich,  The Russian Avant-Garde in Vitebsk, 1918-1922.
 In 1918 after the Russian Revolution, Marc Chagall was invited to found a new school of art --in true revolutionary spirit it was to be open to all for free. Portrait of Marc Chagall, 1914, by Iouri Pen.
 This  Self-portrait, 1918 by Chagall, shows the spirit of the new school. I like it - different from his more romantic work.
 Chagall's, Study for the wall panel -- Introduction to the Kamerny State Jewish Theatre displays the cubist elements that had been influencing him in Paris. New visions for a New World.
 as does his Cubist Landscape, 1919
 and his Composition with a goat, 1917-1920 even hints at the Suprematist movement that would eventually overshadow the cubist influences at the school. Again nicely different from his usual work.
One of the first students at the school, Evgenia Magaril, painted this Composition in 1919-1920
Vassily Kandinsky painted this Moscow. La Place Zoubovski, circa 1916.
I liked Natalia Gontcharova's wonderfully lumpy The Wrestlers, 1909-1910.
El Lissitzky was invited to teach at the People's School of Art in 1919. Proun, circa 1922-1923 shows the growing abstract movement that would lead to the Suprematist style.
 El Lissitsky was interested in combining painting and architecture -- witness his
  Lenin Tribune, 1924
  and his Prounenraum, 1920s, reconstructed here in 1971.
Stunning student work:  Suprematist composition, 1920,  by Ivan Koudriachov
  and Nicolaï Souietine's, Composition, 1920.
Nicolaï Souietine, Sketches of signboards, 1921, in which the new Suprematist approach was taken into the streets of Vitebsk.
 The major powerhouse of the Suprematist group was Kasimir Malevich (Mal-YAY-vitch). This is his Architectone, Gota, 1923
and Architectones and figurines, late 1920s. Beautiful designs for the practical world.
John particularly liked this Ration card of the Vitsvomas Commune, 1920 by Aleksandr Tsetline. The user's name would be entered in the lines on the large square and they would submit the 12 numbered tickets for daily food rations
until they were left with the major card and submit for a new set. Great design!
 The Vitebsk Institute of Art disintegrated in 1923 as a result of economic conditions in post-Revolutionary Russia, but the experiment continues to inspire the world art community.
The Pompidou show makes a fascinating visit both for the works on display and the people watching. ____________________
Until July 16, 2018.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Ceija Stojka at La Maison Rouge

John and I were impressed and moved by the drawings and paintings we saw at "Ceija Stojka: A Rom Artist of Her Century" at La Maison Rouge.
As a Rom child in Nazi-controlled Austria, Ceija Stojka (1933–2013), lived through some of the most horrifying events of the 20th century. Forty years afterward, without artistic training, she felt compelled to give form to her childhood memories in drawing and painting. She emerged a master artist in complete control of her media.
The portrait of the artist hangs beside this enormous, disembodied eye in the entrance to the show --  referring not only to Nazi surveillance but Ceija bearing witness to what she saw and experienced.
The paintings in the first room, all done in the 1990s, show aspects of Rom life before the Nazis came to power. The Simple Life of the Rom
Untitled, acrylic on paper. A nomadic life in Austria.
The cozy interior of a caravan with 10 year-old Ceija and her mother.
A disquieting image -- the Nazis have taken power. The quiet life is over.
One of the central rooms of Ceija's exhibition dramatically presents her family hiding in a Vienna park after her father was arrested by the Gestapo.
 In this detail of the above image, we see the frightened, wary eyes of her family peering out from park shrubs. 
The large La Maison Rouge space has been showing cutting edge exhibitions since 2004.
"Where is your father? They took him." 1943. ink on paper, 2009
 The terrifying arrests of Rom people is dramatically rendered from a child's point of view in this detail from Arrest and deportation, 1995.
The horror of life in the camps is bluntly obvious in Deportation to an extermination camp, 1994. Stojka survived three concentration camps -- Auschwits-Birkenau, Ravensbrück and Bergen-Belson.
Dachau, concentration camp, 1994. Acrylic on paper 
A closer look at the top centre shows just how much drama is packed into this painting.
Life in the concentration camp buildings, Auschwitz, 31-44.
Cieja and her mother were moved from Auschwitz just before the Rom population imprisoned there were murdered. Final liquidation, Auschwitz, August 1944. 2002. acrylic on paper
Complacent expressions on the men in power. 
Cieja poignantly captures her sense of spirits being released above the carnage of extermination in Z.B. (Zyklon B) Gas chamber, 1944, at Auschwitz -- The Liquidation .
Auschwitz, 1943/2011, drawing. To both the child and adult Ceija the crows flying over the camps represented the spirits of the dead.
Auschwitz, 1944, 2003
Birkenau KZ, 1944, 2009 
Maman, Mamooo. We are free. We did not have a face yet. 2004. John told me that when he got to this powerful painting of freedom and release, Stojka began to sing a lullaby on the gallery soundtrack. Overwhelming.
 The last section of Stojka's exhibition, Return to Life,  is rich in colour and the abundance of nature. We will never forget the images in this show.
Only four days left. Closes May 20th

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Black Dolls at La Maison Rouge

Recently at our favourite Marais bar a young woman au courant with the Paris art scene told us to visit La Maison Rouge. We checked it out. Artnet News calls it "an art foundation dedicated to exhibiting private collections and marginal and outsider art". Sounded like a must-visit.
When John and I got there we found a show of Black Dolls, from the collection of Deborah Neff. For the last 25 years, Deborah Neff has been collecting American dolls made mostly between 1840 and 1940. About 200 dolls were on display in the gallery.
One of the first dolls we met was this weeping woman. We were touched.
The photograph behind this group of uncostumed dolls shows a black American child with a white doll. White dolls, it seems, were popular with all children. When black dolls appeared they were something new.
John and I were spellbound by this minimalist trio,
 and this lively young creature.
 Dressed dolls can be as stark as this sackcloth dress
 or as bon vivant as this fellow wearing bright pants and a smart shirt.
 The dolls vibrate with personality,
period couture,
 and robust vigor,
not to mention charm,
 and insouciance.
The dolls are truly overwhelming! Collect them all!
The gallery literature told us that "in the current state of research there is no indication of any movement, tendency or historical or geographical school". But promisingly dolls have "come to light ... that are manifestly by the same hand." 
Other dolls seem very 'one of a kind'!
 What child wouldn't want to be given one of these to cherish?
Some might prefer a dapper lad in plain cotton,
or velvet
or tartan. 
Or someone sporty,
or dark and mysterious,
or formal,
or mythic.
This amazing doll is apparently a self-portrait of black doll maker, Leo Moss.
We'll leave you with an unusual version of what are known as topsy-turvy dolls in which both black and white images are combined in one figure. In this instance the face of a white mass-produced doll has been partially covered with a hand-sewn black face. Eery and fascinating.
Until May 20th