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by Jeff Rian
|Filling the Musée d'art Moderne de Ville de Paris is "Voilà" ("There it is!" or "There you are!"), a show of paintings, sculptures, installation, slide presentations, computers and lots of videotapes by more than 60 artists. This extravagant exhibition, though initiated by the museum, was organized in collaboration with Christian Boltanski and Bertrand Lavier, two of the participants -- and their influence shows.
Boltanski's contribution is a piece called Telephone Books, shelves of phone books gathered from all over the world. His wife, Annette Messager, covered the floor of the horseshoe-shaped room that contains Dufy's Paris mural with En attente, Dépendance Independance (Waiting, Dependence Independence) (1995-2000), a gothic gathering of stuffed animals and framed photographs in black lace netting, words made of stuffed fabric and numerous fetish objects.
As for Lavier, he gives us La peinture des Martin 19002000, a large room filled with a century of mostly bad paintings and photographs by artists who have the last name of "Martin," ranging from the Minimalist Agnes to the newcomer Younghee Choi. Claude Lévêque's Claude (2000), a dark room filled with steel panels in which a light flashes intermittently to the sound of a gunshot, is both tribute and what he called a "self-portrait" to Chicago kids killed in shootings.
Robert Filliou's Eins, Un, One... (1984) is 5,000 assorted dice strewn on the floor. Dieter Roth's Reykjavik Slides 1973-75 (1990 and 1993) plays 100 slide carousels of Icelandic homes, seven at a time, while Fischli and Weiss give us Sichtbare Welt (Visible World) (1986-2000), a group of 14 light tables filled with 2,800 4 x 5 cm. slides that the artist duo had taken around the world.
There are lots of portraits, of people and things -- August Sander photos, Bernd & Hilla Becher pictures of mine elevators, black-and-white formal portraits of Africans taken by Seydou Keïta between 1947 and 1980. My favorite is Hans-Peter Feldman's 100 Years, 101 black-and-white portraits of males and females ranging in age from 8 months to 100 years old.
The exhibition also includes a media library (books, CDs, videos), a 1978 time capsule made by Andy Warhol, films by Samuel Beckett, Sarkis and Jonas Mekas, and CD-Roms by Armin Linke, Claude Closky, Chris Marker, etc. The computer terminals slow you down, yet made sense, considering the medium's growing status in art today.
Overall, the show is like a picture album chronicling the past 50 years of post-studio, postmodern and "picture theory" art, hinging on Boltanski's nostalgia for time and mortality and Lavier's yen for symbolic objects. The exhibition closes October 29, 2000.
"Utopia" at the National Library
François Mitterand's National Library is four, right-angled, glass-faced corner buildings set around a huge bleached-wood deck. In basement galleries was installed "Utopia: The Occident's Search for an Ideal Society," a bibliophile's dream-show of incanabulae, rare books, maps, drawings, photographs, film stills, architectural models, objects and videos; a veritable catalogue of an Edenic idea, from the medieval Book of Hours through modernism's vision of the future and the revolutionary 1960s.
Thomas More (born 1478, beheaded 1535) published Utopia in 1516, coining the title from the Greek words for "not" and "place" to proscribe a rosy island world founded on Nature's reason. Written shortly after the discovery of the New World -- Shakespeare's "brave new world" -- Utopia eventually became a sort of blueprint for communism as well as modernism.
In addition to the the extensive selection of historic books, on view were fascinating images of Jean Jacques Lequeue (1757-1825) and Claude Nicolas Ledoux's (1736-1806) visionary architecture, the latter creating the ideal city of Chaux, based on nature's circularity but shaped like a factory; maps, drawings and paintings about the New World; Russian modernist art and agitprop of Soviet industrialization during the 1920s and 1930s; a life-sized figure from Fritz Lang's Metropolis; modern home appliances; and images of May 1968 in Paris and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. to the sound of John Lennon's Imagine.
Being a library show, "Utopia" brought into focus the marriage of the book and exact reproduction, which spawned science and exploration in the first place. One also notices that despite all those good intentions, from the Enlightenment up to the New Age movement, Utopias were mostly about geometric order, institutional architecture, fortifications and control.
"Elysian Fields" at the Pompidou
Curated by Elein Fleiss and Olivier Zahm of Purple magazine, where I'm an editor, "Elysian Fields" (Champs Elysée in French) -- the Greek abode of the blessed after death -- made a nice juxtaposition to "Utopia," evoking a dreamy, creative suburbia for the indie rock generation. Yeah, OK, I'm prejudiced. But it too showed art differently (to July 24).
Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Dike Blair designed five small, pale pink, flat-roofed, glass-doored California-style ranch houses that are placed in the Pompidou galleries. The artworks are installed both inside the houses, where they can be seen through the glass doors and hung on the outer walls and placed here and there like lawn sculpture. The five houses surrounded Jean Luc Vilmouth's garden of potted plants, which were all connected by a network of black conduit. The houses had names like Stereo House, Villa Rouge, Residence Rêve.
Stereo House contained a landscape painting by Gerhard Richter, a painting of a girl on a couch by Miltos Manetas and two sculptural wall inserts by Ricci Albenda, which created the effect of the walls warping in and out.
Villa Rouge had three spaces: Claude Lévêque's red-carpet room, lit by hot red lamps overhead; a glassed-in porch with hanging amber-glass lamps by Jorge Pardo; and a room of symbolist gouaches by Japanese filmmaker Takashi Kitano.
Other houses had photographs by Takashi Homma, Anders Edström and Torbjorn Rodland, and drawings by Swedish artist Maria Finn. In one "backyard" was a black monolith by John McCracken and desert hills carved in foam by Andrea Zittel, while in another were car hoods by Richard Prince and a new Peugeot under a neon carport by Bernard Joisten.
Films by Antek Walczak and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster played in a small theater. A soundtrack with new works by Sonic Youth, Oval, David Grubbs, Tom Verlaine, Jim O'Rourke and other musicians plays continuously throughout the show. The CD comes tipped in the 400-page textless(!) catalogue, which was designed by the Dutch group Experimental Jet Set, who also did the impossible-to-figure-out wall maps and a really great wall poster at the entrance that shows the layout of the houses.
The show is about design and seeing art in a homey, atmospheric environment overlayed with dreamy instrumental music. No one seems to get the title. But to me, it felt more utopian than "Utopia." But, like I said, I'm prejudiced.
Alain Séchas at Jennifer Flay
A tight-lipped comic, an artistic cousin of Bruce Nauman, and in my eyes one of the best artists in France, Alain Séchas parodies the power authority wields over desire and imagination. His show at Flay was a mix of cartoon-styled sculptures, like The Happy Martian a (210,000 frs for the sculpture alone; 260,000 with the mural), wall paintings, and ink-wash cartoons, three walls of them (15,000 frs each).
The subject was salving and salting the wounds of growing up and getting laid. Rendered with irony and pithy observation he recalls one's worst memories, perhaps his own. His silkscreen, Peace-Love, summed up the difference between baby-boomers and their gothic kids: parents wear Peace and Love T-shirts, while their four kids sport the words, Murder, Suicide, Bitch, and Gore (edition of 50, 6,000 frs; about 8,000 frs for a drawing).
Pierre Huyghe at Marian Goodman
"No ghost Just a Shell" is the title of a video project by Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno (see the next review) using a Japanese manga character named Ann-Lee whose rights they purchased. Each made a video, in English, in which she stars. Huyghe's Two Minutes Out of Time has Ann-Lee in close-up against a blank background. She begins a monologue of self-advertisement about a "fictional character with a copyright ... a deviant sign" who is "haunted by your imagination." Her life is meant to mix into ours, which is typical of Huyghe's turning film or video into memory games and mnemonic devices about life aping art aping life and so on.
Philippe Parreno at Air de Paris
At Jennifer Flay, Parreno's projection of No Ghost Just a Shell followed a similar line as Huyghe's: a patently self-conscious, sexually naïve fictional character alone on a big-bare screen, aware of her own existence, talking to us and herself, but unconvincingly, despite the gamine attitude. Let's hope Huyghe and Parreno continue and cause her more trouble and give her less time to sulk.
Sex and the British at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
Curated by Norman Rosenthal and Max Wigram, "Sex and the British" was stylistically polymorphous, spunkily perverse, materially ambitious, and predictably baroque. At the private opening the Brits drank beer, ate sausages and watched their team play soccer. I overheard Rosenthal and Jeffrey Deitch flatter each other while complimenting Philippe Bradshaw's Midlife Crisis 3 Ladies Toilet Wentworth Street Having My Cake and Eating It (2000), an impressive rendition of Fragonard's The Swing (1766) done in four layers of colored, anodized aluminum chains, which the viewer has to claw through to get to the next gallery.
There, one finds mostly familiar suspects: Jake & Dino Chapman's dildo-nosed fiberglass head Bring Me the Head of Franco Toselli (1995), hard at work in a video and at rest on a plinth; a Gordian knot of sex toys by Tim Noble & Sue Webster, Double Header -- Double Pleasure (2000), back-lit to project two decapitated heads hung on a phallus; Sarah Lucas's sex sculptures made with food; and, downstairs, Mat Collishaw's 3-D lenticular transparencies in lightboxes, color pictures of Nazi couples after cyanide, called Burnt Almonds (2000). Altogether it was a silly, at times funny, summer show.
JEFF RIAN is an editor of Purple magazine. He lives in Paris.