Magazine Home  |  News  |  Features  |  Reviews  |  Books  |  People  |  Horoscope  
Back to Reviews 96

 Travesti (with corset 
and nylons), 1969, 
All photos courtesy 
Ubu Gallery.

© ArtNet Worldwide 1997

Title unknown/
ca. 1966-68 

 Grande Melee, 1968

pierre molinier

at wooster gardens
and ubu gallery

by Catherine Morris
The French artist Pierre Molinier (1900-

1976) spent the better part of the last 

decade of his life developing a 

photographic universe in which he himself 

was the featured player in representing his 

own obsessive, elaborate and highly 

stylized sexual fantasies. With the help of 

an array of specially made props--dolls, 

various prosthetic limbs, stiletto heels, 

dildoes and an occasional trusted friend--

Molinier made his own body the armature for 

the construction of an extraordinary 

production of photographic work. Typically 

intimate in format and antique in 

appearance, his black-and-white photographs 

range from formally traditional self-

portraits to elaborately constructed 

collages of abstracted legs, masked faces, 

penises and buttocks. Much of his work 

involves transvestitism; Molinier seemed 

obsessed with having sex with himself in 

the guise of a woman.

Two current exhibitions of Molinier's 

photographs at Wooster Gardens in Soho 

(through Nov. 9) and uptown at Ubu Gallery 

(through Oct. 22) complement each other in 

their presentations of the theatrical and 

fascinatingly myopic world this reclusive 

artist built for himself over the course of 

more than 50 years spent living in 

Bordeaux. Though most of his life he was as 

a painter (at some point using his own 

semen on his canvases), the last nine years 

of his life were devoted exclusively to 

making photographs. In one small room, with 

a limited number of tools, Molinier created 

his own body-art language: a language that 

could be seen to bridge the art historical 

generations between the "Poupee" of Hans 

Bellmer and performance work of Bob 


The exhibition at Wooster Gardens features 

41 images, many of them composed of cut, 

cropped and collaged photographs that were 

then rephotographed. Molinier's working 

methods are fairly common--Surrealist 

inspired portraits and montaged images 

composed of favorite body parts. It is the 

artist's thematic preoccupations, however, 

that captivate more than his formal 

concerns. Molinier's exploration of sex--

exclusively his own sex and sexual 

fantasies--is unrelenting, unapologetic and 

self-consciously stylized. 

The selection of photographs at the Ubu 

Gallery reflects the more formally refined 

Molinier. In this exhibition the full 

impact of Molinier's sophisticated theater 

of one is realized in a full dress 

performance. The elaborate photomontages, 

the Grand Melee are a formal end to 

Molinier's thematic. Here sex becomes a 

being unto itself, composed of the parts of 

his own body Molinier has gladly donated as 

the building material for the construction 

of his voracious muse. 

In 1976, at age 76, Molinier committed 


Ubu Gallery, 16 East 78 Street, NYC, NY 

10021, Sept. 7-Oct. 22, 1996.

Wooster Gardens/Brent Sikkema, 558 B'way, 

NYC, NY 10012, Sept. 7-Oct. 5, 1996.

CATHERINE MORRIS is a New York writer and 

art historian.