(Our Paris correspondent, Matthew Rose, wraps up 2013 giving a shout out to some shows he saw and some work by Americans who visited him in Paris.–the artblog editors.)
Best Mail Art show: Correspondence at Louis Vuitton Espace Culturel
Correspondences (1 Feb – 5 May), an exhibition of mail art that brought together nearly a dozen artists who have scribbled and stamped away at the postal canvas for years: Ray Johnson, Eleanor Antin, Alighiero Boetti, Jan Dibbets as well as others with interests in networks and packaging – Stephen Antonakos’ works were featured outside (see photo) the building in the Louis Vuitton window.
The focus of the show was Ray Johnson’s letters, including these gems from his Dollar Bill show and his “add to and return to” self-portrait with French cigarettes. It was Johnson (1927-1995), after all, who invented The Paris Correspondence School. More here: Louis Vuitton Espace Culturel.
Best “Origin of the World” Homage : Ari Rossner
Gustave Courbet’s Origin of the World is one of the most art historically (and pictorially) quoted image in Modern Art. The painting of a woman’s genitalia, her legs spread never ceases to raise the hackles of just about anyone who brushes up against art, realism or is a Facebook censor (yes, the work was brought down by Facebook in 2011). French photographer, Ari Rossner, however made this image the center of his Femininity exhibition of black and white photographs. More than a dozen large-scale nudes were displayed in the busy advertising agency Creativ’Link, but Rossner’s “The Origin of Man” took the main wall and was treated to a curtain, which was routinely raised and lowered not to protect the innocent eyes of visitors but to emphasize, says Rossner, the reality and history of our inhibitions.
Hottest Vintage Neon: Keith Sonnier in Paris
One of the granddaddy’s of neon art work, Keith Sonnier, was in Paris to put on two exhibitions – one in the South of France (Guy Pieters in Saint-Paul de Vence) and the other, Demi-Lune, at the JGM Gallery in Paris (22 October – 30 November). I spent the evening talking with the artist and his collector friends about light (moonlight, candlelight) and his home state Louisiana, where the artist learned French and his unique Cajun idiom and story-telling gift.
On view were five classic works from 1968-1972, each incorporating neon, metal mesh, glass and industrial materials, each the launching of a kind of mystical language that has become the lingua franca for contemporary sculpture – familiar, sacred, friendly yet profane.
Best American Icon: Trucks by John Himmelfarb in Chelsea, Michigan
“Built from Similar Parts” (17 Sept – 30 Oct) at Chelsea River Gallery in Chelsea, MI. John Himmelfarb has been producing trucks on paper, in bronze, wood and canvas for about a decade. I visited Himmelfarb in his studio in Chicago this summer just as he was finishing up his newest book (and readying it for Amazon.com): Trucks: Recent Works. At the time, Himmelfarb was looking to pick up a new REO flatbed to add to his fire engine and other trucks in progress. GM or Ford should get one for their corporate headquarters. See the artist in a short film featuring Penelope on the road. Or this one about Galatea.
My American visitors – Paper Chase in Paris
I had visitors all year long – most of them artists. Two artists, however, have continuously chased the paper prize producing an endless and mind blowing series of collage works. Hope Kroll, an artist from Central California, is an obsessive cutter of images so small you think she was a production assistant for Fantastic Voyage. But Kroll, who cuts during the day and glues at night, has assembled drawers and drawers filled with guns, and eyes, and birds, and veins and lungs and yes, even tiny tiny scissors. She’s amazing. Take a look: Hope Kroll.
Cecil Touchon isn’t so much of a cutter as a paper collector, but he has his druthers: He wants hot French type. Preferably torn, fresh, from the Paris Métro walls and streets. Then he will take his meal home where the Pagosa Springs artists will finely slice the texts into strips and like a Constructivist on acid, recreate a fascinating graphic text as image work. Touchon, who lives and works in Pagosa Springs, Colorado and operates the Collage Museum in town there, produced a staggering quantity of works while here in Paris (October) and is now enlarging them via paint and collage up a few hundred times their original sizes. See more of Touchon’s work here: Cecil Touchon.