The Musée Zadkine, one of my favorite places in Paris, is tucked away at the end of an alley near the Luxembourg Garden. The small museum, the former home and studio of sculptor Ossip Zadkine (1888-1967), is a peaceful haven in the city, with a lovely garden of its own. It holds surprisingly sophisticated exhibitions for a one-artist museum, and the delightful current show, “Le Rêveur de la Forêt,” is no exception.
As always, the curators have found new ways to spotlight Zadkine‘s work, this time by focusing on the idea of the forest, with works by some 40 artists in all media, from Zadkine, Jean Arp and Alberto Giacometti to Pablo Picasso, André Derain, Jean Dubuffet, Max Ernst, Natalia Gontcharova and Joseph Beuys, all beautifully displayed in the smallish exhibition rooms filled with natural light.
From Zadkine himself, we have a wide variety of sculptures in wood. One piece, “Cariatide, Fragments” (1923-24), is nothing but the rough vestiges of the original statue, which was partially destroyed during World War II while Zadkine was in exile in the United States. The artist then left its remains exposed to the elements in the garden for decades, allowing them to decay. “Even though they were slowly rotting,” said Zadkine, “it was amusing for me to see them live in the real light of day.”
Then there are monumental pieces with elaborate carving by Zadkine, like the statue of “Daphné” (1939), carved directly into the trunk of an elm tree, which captures the nymph as she is being transformed into a laurel tree to save her from being raped by the god Apollo, as described in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Nicely juxtaposed with the fragments of “Cariatide” is “Offen ve contre V,” by A.R. Penck, which is basically part of a tree trunk that has been attacked by a chisel, Lucio Fontana-style, and, contrasting with those two, Zadkine’s “Head of a Man” (1922), all smooth and gilded, not far from three lovely white abstract sculptures by Jean Arp, an artist, we are told, who refused to reproduce nature but instead wanted to “produce, as a plant produces a fruit.”
There are many such evocative juxtapositions of works here. Laure Prouvost’s “Parle Ment Branches (1) and (2)” bizarrely sprouts female breasts instead of cobwebs in the forks of tree branches, while the delicate bronze branches of Javier Perez’s antler-like “Brotes I” end in tiny golden olive leaves. Nearby is Germaine Richier’s large, rather frightening bronze sculpture “Bat” (1946).
Don’t miss the works in the separate building in the garden, including the above-mentioned “Daphne,” which can be observed to the tune of the sounds of a primary forest filling the room. The shrieks and trills and thrums come from a video, part of a fascinating sound installation, “La Fôret des Gestes” (1973), showing Ariane Michel making all those realistic sounds using everyday man-made objects like yogurt cups, glass pots and brushes, which are neatly piled beneath the video.
This woodsy stroll through an imaginary forest is a great complement to the current show at the Fondation Cartier, “Trees” (“Nous les Arbres”).