Thu 7 Sep 2023 to Wed 22 Nov 2023
Artist: Hans Bellmer
Galerie 1900-2000 presents The Surreal World of Hans Bellmer, our first solo exhibition by an artist in our New York City gallery. Bellmer is well known for his photographs of dolls, which he referred to as “language images,” however the artist also created a large body of work consisting of prints, drawings, and paintings. This exhibition presents examples of his erotic and fantastical works across mediums and meaning, spanning from the 1920s to the early 1960s.
Bellmer is quoted as having said, “The body resembles a sentence that seems to invite us to dismantle it into its component letters, so that its true meanings may be revealed ever anew through an endless stream of anagrams.” Like many other artists around the world, Bellmer reacted to the zeitgeist of the moment in his work, stating “if the origin of my work is scandalous it is because, for me, the world is a scandal.” The first doll was created in 1933, and Bellmer then began photographing it. In the latter part of 1934, he self-published ten of his photographs in his infamous book Die Puppe (The Doll), and soon thereafter, upon presenting eighteen photographs in André Breton’s Surrealist magazine, Minotaure, he was officially launched into the Parisian art scene. La Poupée (The Doll), was officially published in France in 1936, an example of which is proudly included in this exhibition.
The Surrealists idealized the femme-enfant as a muse, readily embracing her innocence as the optimum lens through which to experience life. However, Bellmer, never a conformist, expressed, “I am glad to be considered part of the Surrealist movement although I have less concern than some Surrealists with the unconscious because my works are always carefully thought out and controlled.”
Throughout his life Bellmer wrestled with post-traumatic depression. Thus, the work he created operated as a form of personal therapy, allowing him to explore psychoanalytic concepts: the fetish, desire, ambivalence, the gaze, and sadism. He used his dolls to discover social taboos, investigate the unconscious, and fulfil desires.
Beginning in 1953 Bellmer had significant solo exhibitions in galleries and museums around the world, Major presentations of his work at museums include the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1970); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1975), the Centre Pompidou, Paris (1983 and 2006), and the International Center of Photography, New York (2001), to name a very few. Notable museums in the United States which have significant holdings of his work are the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern, New York, which is currently exhibiting the sculpture The Machine-Gunneress in a State of Grace from 1937 on the fifth floor; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and numerous others.
This exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated publication, with an essay on Hans Bellmer by writer and curator, Bob Nickas.