Exhibition Miscellany II

February 7, 2010By Paris UpdateArchive
Preparatory sketch by Part One (2009)© Part One

This week, we visit three exhibitions that offer a forum for artists whose work may not have been picked up by the mainstream art world’s radar: graffiti artists at the Fondation Cartier, Palestinian artists

Preparatory sketch by Part One (2009)© Part One

This week, we visit three exhibitions that offer a forum for artists whose work may not have been picked up by the mainstream art world’s radar: graffiti artists at the Fondation Cartier, Palestinian artists at the Institut du Monde Arabe and conceptual artists at the Palais de Tokyo.

Born in the Streets: Graffiti

Has graffiti grown up and become respectable? Judging by the increasing sophistication of “pieces” (short for masterpieces; see Wikipedia’s excellent glossary of graffiti lingo here) and the number of exhibitions and auctions of graffiti art being held these days, one would have to say yes. At the recent opening of “Born in the Streets: Graffiti” at Paris’s Fondation Cartier (through November 30), one proud young graffiti artist was even showing off a lifelike spray-paint-can program on his iPhone. How bourgeois can you get?

Yet, thankfully, graffiti retains its outlaw character even while being fêted by the mainstream art world. Kings and queens (experts) and toys (beginners) still risk arrest and sometimes even their lives when writing on walls, trains, trucks or whatever surface they can find. The Fondation Cartier has given some of them a safer outlet by commissioning a number of large-scale pieces, on show in the ground floor galleries. The basement galleries present a fascinating overview of the history and development of graffiti, with films of perpetrators in action in the dark of night; video interviews with taggers, including Keith Haring, who was inspired by the empty black rectangles of unsold advertising space in the New York subway; paintings by Haring and some other big names (e.g., Jean-Michel Basquiat); and photo essays of graffiti in situ. Visitors learn everything there is to know about graffiti: tools, techniques, styles, movements and more. Keep writing, kids.

Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain: 261, boulevard Raspail, 75014 Paris. Métro: Raspail. Tel.: 01 42 18 56 50. Open Tuesday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Admission: €6.50. Through January 10. http://fondation.cartier.com/

Palestine: La Création dans Tous ses Etats

Palestine, institut du monde arabe, paris
Planting the Palestinian flag on the moon. From Larissa Sansour’s video “Space Exodus” (2008)

Not surprisingly, most of the contemporary works in the collective exhibition “Palestine: La Création dans Tous ses Etats” at the Institut du Monde Arabe (through Nov. 22) have political content, which doesn’t always make for transcendent works of art; many of these pieces, especially the videos, are really straightforward documentaries, not artworks. Some, however, manage to contain political content and go beyond it, such as Larissa Sansour’s entertaining video “A Space Exodus,” a takeoff of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which ends with an astronaut planting the Palestinian flag on the moon, or Suha Shoman’s short film, “Bayyaratina,” which finds a poetic way to lament the desertification of her family’s lush orange groves after the land is confiscated by the Israelis.

Steve Sabella turns his political commentary – in the form of repeated and juxtaposed images representing the “banality and monotony” of the physical world inhabited by the Palestinians – into subtle, handsome abstract photomontages, while Samia Halaby has contributed a beautiful impressionistic painting, “Palestine from Jordan to the Mediterranean,” which forms an “imaginary map” of Palestinian territory. Hani Zurob’s figurative “Standby 60” paintings have no overt political content yet exude angst with their dark, murky colors and violent brushstrokes.

Institut du Monde Arabe: 1, rue des Fossés-Saint-Bernard, Place Mohammed-V, 75005 Paris. Métro: Jussieu. Tel.: 01 40 51 38 38. Through November 22. Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday and public holiday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Admission: €7. www.imarabe.org

Spy Numbers

spy numbers, palais de tokyo, paris
Felix Schramm’s “Omission” (2009).Photo: André Morin

For a quick dose of conceptualism, the Palais de Tokyo is holding a small show called “Spy Numbers” (through Aug. 30), which the press release describes as an “exploration of the electromagnetic spectrum and its margins.” The text continues: “Beyond the visible and closer still to the infra-thin and the spectral, the Palais de Tokyo experiments with forms of art that elude any wistful desire for fixed interpretations.”

I bravely quashed my wistful desire for fixed interpretations and had an enjoyable time looking at an eclectic group of works whose relationship to each other was indeed difficult to interpret. Dove Allouche and Evariste Richer contributed an impressively scientific-looking machine containing a rainbow-surfaced hanging ball; it has something to do with the aurora borealis. Jim Shaw’s “Heap” is a statue of a cute monster holding a few dead roses in its hand and made entirely of McDonald’s toys.

Norma Jeane (real name: Davide Legittimo) thoughtfully saved up a year’s worth of used disposable contact lenses and presents them in two large petri dishes. Felix Schramm’s “Omissions” consists of gigantic shards of painted sheetrock bursting through the back wall of the exhibition space like a major accident.

In a series of “living” photographs by Arthur Mole (1889-1983) and John Thomas taken in the United States during and just after World War I, large groups of people are posed together to form symbols or portraits, most of them patriotic, such as the Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Bell or a machine-gun insignia.

Pascal Broccolichi’s “Sonotubes” are three large white tube-shaped speakers playing amplified recordings of the Palais de Tokyo’s electromagnetic activity.

For his environmentally unfriendly but conceptually interesting piece “To Lower the Mountains,” Luca Francesconi actually climbed three mountains in the Alps and sawed off their peaks. And, if you’re wondering what’s missing in the huge blown-up photo of a lynch mob, it’s the victim’s bodies and the hanging ropes, which have been airbrushed out by Ken Gonzales-Day in “Erased Lynching.”

Get it?

Palais de Tokyo: 13, avenue du Président Wilson, 75116 Paris. Métro: Pont d’Alma or Iéna. Tel: 01 4 723 54 01.Open Tuesday-Sunday, noon to midnight. Admission: €4.50 Through August 30. www.palaisdetokyo.com

Buy related books and films from the Paris Update store.

More reviews of current art exhibitions.

Reader Reaction
Click here to respond to this article (your response may be published on this page and is subject to editing).

© 2009 Paris Update


What do you think? Send a comment:

Your comment is subject to editing. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe for free!

The Paris Update newsletter will arrive in your inbox every Wednesday, full of the latest Paris news, reviews and insider tips.