The idea of art is to be as free as possible. . . . I retain the right to do whatever I want.
Born in 1966 in Glasgow (Scotland), Douglas Gordon lives and works in Berlin, Glasgow and Paris. His practice encompasses video and film, installation, sculpture, photography, and text. Through his work, Gordon investigates human conditions like memory and the passing of time, as well as universal dualities such as life and death, good and evil, right and wrong.
The formula, Hocus Pocus, choosen by the artist in his neon work is used by magicians and illusionists to divert the attention of spectators during their manipulations. More frequently used in the Anglo-Saxon languages, the expression Hocus pocus took in slang, since the XVIIth century, the sense of deceit, swindle, scam. Simplified, it is at the origin of the word hoax. It is also a wink to the surrealists among which the French writer Raymond Roussel whose novel Locus Solus, by the imagination that unfolds there, is likened to a science fiction book.
Gordon’s œuvre has been exhibited globally, in major solo exhibitions including the Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin (1999), the Tate Liverpool (2000), the MOCA in Los Angeles (2001 and 2012), the Hayward Gallery in London (2002), the National Gallery of Scotland (2006), the Museum of Modern Art in New York (2006), the TATE Britain in London (2010), the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2013), as well as in the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris (2014). His film works have been invited to the Festival de Cannes, Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Venice Film Festival, Edinburgh International Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, Festival del Film Locarno, New York Film Festival, among many others. Gordon received the 1996 Turner Prize. In 2017, he presented I had nowhere to go at Documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel.
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Marcel Duchamp (France, 1887- 1968) has radically transformed the art of the 20th century. In the nineteen- thirties, with the invention of the ready-made – a piece that the artist finds “already-made”, and selects for his aesthetic neutrality – he paves the way for the most extreme avant-garde approaches.
This extraordinary portrait of Duchamp in tonsure was taken in Paris shortly after his return from Argentina in 1919. His dada gesture, prompted in part by an infestation of lice in Buenos Aires, undoubtedly had anti-clerical nuances, since shaving a part of the head is a rite of passage for young men aspiring to Roman Catholic priesthood.
As surrealist companions, André Breton and Marcel Duchamp have collaborated several times. In 1937 for example, on the occasion of the opening of a gallery by Breton at 31 rue de Seine (Paris 6), Duchamp designed the entry as a friendly contribution. André Breton described the Gradiva gallery as a space with “a glass door made by Marcel Duchamp, whose opening is shaped like a rather tall man and a visibly smaller and very thin woman standing side by side.” On this model will be sketched The Announcement for the exhibition, in 1968.
A fetishist and transvestite artist born in 1900, Pierre Molinier created astounding self-portraits – until the year 1976 when he committed suicide by shooting himself in the mouth. Painted or photographed, extremely sophisticated in both staging and technique, his works of art span the entire spectrum of self-eroticism. Photography especially is what allowed Pierre Molinier to assuage his hermaphrodite fantasies and create himself both a new body and a new identity. By means of self-staging, travesty, cut-outs, collage, superposition and special effects, Molinier portrayed himself as a hybrid and unisex creature, man-woman in one body and one soul, in black and white self-portraits that are as intimist as they are immodest. We often find the artist naked, his penis erect or hidden between his thighs, wearing a mask, basque, falsies, garter belt, stockings and high heels… And so Pierre Molinier’s photomontages and pictorial works of art abound in inextricably intermingling bodies and limbs that are made up and accessorized.
Pierre Molinier’s work is now even more topical than ever, to the extent that it touches on different veins of travesty, self-staging, fetishism and questions of identity and genre.
A key figure in body art in France, Gina Pane (France, 1939-1990) established her reputation in the 1970s with strongly symbolic “actions”. From the emotion provoked by the injury to which she subjected her body while the ‘anaesthetised’ viewer looked on, to the enthusiastic critics who followed her radical acts, Gina Pane constructed a myth. The question of the sacred, one of the essential underlying threads, far from belonging to the final period alone, has fed every formal variation of a career punctuated by inventive proposals: geometric paintings and Structures affirmées [Confirmed structures] (completed 1967), in situ installations and outdoor actions (1968- 70), public actions (1971-79), and Partitions (1980-89).
Inspired by the Italian word “partizione”, the Partitions are symbolic artworks produced from very diverse materials. Her artworks, which titles are being of particular importance, took her into the realms of sculpture and installation, evocating a now gone body. The Partitions allows Gina Pane to transfer on the material (glass, copper, wood, etc.) her body’s experiences through fire,milk, or razor blade. This work strongly evokes the action Transfert [Transfer] (1973), where a glass of mint cordial and a glass of milk placed on a tablet occupied the centre of attention. The glass of mint was placed beyond the artist’s reach. Frustrated by not being able to consume both, Gina Pane ended up breaking the glasses and lapping up the mixed liquids from the floor, injuring herself with the shards of glass.
A metaphor for an interior conflict whose ‘ins and outs’ we are ignorant of, this action is re-enacted in Dehors – Partition pour une feuille de menthe. The broken, transparent glasses reflect the milky whiteness of the wall. The green stemmed glasses, intact, project onto this same wall the delicate contours of a mint leaf. With great sobriety, this work brings to light the driving forces and heroic choices that govern our existence, from the most banal to the most intimate. A glass of milk or a glass of mint cordial? Maternal love or desire for another?
Adopted Parisian since 1921, MAN RAY (Pennsylvania, 1890-France, 1976) was one of the main actors of the avant- garde movements’s which agitated the intellectual and artistic parisian life. His Anarchist formation unleashes him from established values, de-emphasises traditional expression methods and encourages him to follow only his own individual necessity in all his innovations. Faithful to Dada’s aspirations for freedom and pleasure, his original personality unabled him to be part of various movements such as surrealism, without ever giving up his sense of freedom.
This photograph originally attributed to Man Ray alone, represents dust on a glass plate in Duchamp’s studio in New York. A glass that will become the great work of the artist, La Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même, also known as Le Grand Verre (1915-1923). When this piece first appeared, in October 1922, it bore the caption: “Vue prise en aéroplane”. It was in 1964, the photograph is officially entitled Élevage de poussières and jointly signed by Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp. From then on, it begins to haunt contemporary culture. Marking the dawn of the modern period, it is often invoked in debates on the photography’s status as an indication or a trace, in texts on the artistic use of “poor” materials, even in debates on the landscape’s representation.
“Photography showed me how the object was once flat. As a result, I no longer had to make adjustments from nature. Other artists transpose the three dimensions of the real world into a two-dimensional image. That, photography did it for me. ” Ed Ruscha
Edward Ruscha arrived in Los Angeles in 1956 to study commercial art at the Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts). Attracted to the reproducibility, collaborative processes, and happy accidents specific to printmaking, he began to create lithographic editions, infusing the Pop and Conceptual sensibilities of the time with vernacular wit and existential melancholy. His exquisitely refined prints engage a breadth of formal themes, from text and typography to still life and quotidian architecture, played out in a spirit of rigorous yet restless experimentation. In 1961, Ruscha made a series of black and white shots more premeditated in their bill, entitled Products, where consumer goods float on indefinite funds. The images describe with a clinical precision simple commodities in the middle of the frame, whose clarity and readability produce an unexpected graphic impact. He also practices collage at this time and incorporates photographs, which become simple objects among others.
If painting remains Ruscha’s main mode of expression – whose drawings give rise to various experiments in materials (in 1969 he uses gunpowder, but also ivy, tobacco or vegetable juice, in 1970 he presents Chocolate Room at the Venice Biennale by covering the walls of the American Pavilion with chocolate-coated sheets of paper) – photography is nevertheless a fundamental process for him. An operation to put things in the order of almost nothing, a nothing to which he gives a range, a thickness and an enigmatic character that allow him to go beyond the purely formal question of the medium and continue to fascinate the youngest artists.
Morgane Tschiember (born in Brest in 1976) is a French sculptor, laureate of Foundation Ricard prize in 2001. Empirical and practical, her work is rooted in a very physical dimension, putting in the center a kind of permanent body-to-body contact with the material, leaving voluntarily visible traces of “doing”, gesture, showing both the production process and the trace of her own body. Her relationship with the world is close to metaphysics, it is a dynamic system, where the movement is constantly at work, where there is an obsessive way of transformation, of verge, a passage from one condition to another: here, the raw material of the work passes from the state of sand to a molten liquid blown then to the soft and organic forms of glass.