One of the most remarkable achievements of modernism in the end of the 19th century was the conquest by artists of the right tobe “bizarre”. From Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (1865) and James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), passing by Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (1913) and Pablo Picasso’s Portrait of Dora Maar (1937) all the way to Ezra Pound’s Cantos (1962) and William Burroughs’s Naked Lunch (1959), Western art in all its forms lived a relatively brief period of thematic and ideological freedom, when the art pompier cultural canon has already disappeared, but the current, “post-conceptual” one, has not yet emerged.
During a century between the 1863 Parisian Salon des Refusés, paving the way to the non-academic Impressionist style, and the Red May of 1968, which ultimately led to the overwhelming domination of political agenda in contemporary art, European and American cultural practitioners were largely “left alone” by all kinds of power institutions and got a historically unique opportunity to fulfill their most daring fantasies freely. They were doing so expressing keen interest in the phenomena that even today seem delicate or frightening, like “outsider art”. They were exploring naturism and animal sexuality, inventing extravagant rituals and even initiating armed conflicts. Thanks to the likes of Jean Cocteau, Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dalí or Gabriele d’Annunzio, art, eccentricity and unchained imagination on the edge of conventional “normalcy” have become largely synonymous. And it is precisely this attitude towards their creative practices that unites all the participants of the current exhibition – painters, sculptors and mixed-media artists having the courage to expose their dream visions, obsessions, sentimental wounds, desires and phantasms to the public.
On the artworks by Malù dalla Piccola, Alice Grenier-Nebout, Rachelle Cunningham, Angelique de Limburg-Stirum and Abigail Tulis, the viewer is presented with a fiery bacchanal of fauns, trickers or witches dancing naked and lovemaking at night in the forest. Lips ready to kiss and women living through painful pleasure ecstasy stare at us from the portraits and textile objects by Mélanie de Pourtalès and Kristina de Coninck. Alongside them – distorted and deconstructed, playful and crazy, semi-abstract and semi-human faces by Xavier de Vilmorin, Charles Anastase, Tony Manzano and Julien Bernard.
A grinning dog with a gigantic penis-shaped nose by Sissy de Pourtalès, an anthropomorphic rabbit with his cheeky tongue sticking out by Marianne Abergel, a gymnast with a frog’s head by Cyril Debon and a quasi-ritual mask of an unknown monkey-like animal by Yoann Estevenin drive us deeper into the non-human realm. In turn, a pot-headed creature with the eyes on his back by Victoire Kammermann, a couple of little “household deities” by Hélène Loussier, “alien twins” with metallic faces and amorphous bodies by Antoine Larrera, as well as a smiling steam locomotive by Loïse Alline belong to a completely fairytale and phantasmic domain.
As a counterpoint to this whole Hieronymus Bosch-like garden of earthly delights, Nine d’Urso proposes another path to “recycle” intimate human emotions into an artwork. While creating her installation, Nine d’Urso was asking family members, friends and even random people to tell her their deeply-held secrets, each one of them she, as a medieval alchemist, was “putting” in a small bottle by sticking to it an allegorical drawing. As a result, Nine d’Urso’s “locker of stories” contains dozens of encrypted confessions from people of different ages, origins and walks of life. Revealing and satirical, direct and multi-layered, subtle and simply wild – the paintings, drawings, sculptures and other fruits of creativity put together in this exhibition resonate with the authentic mission of art, which is to enable the complexity of human desires and of the world itself to be expressed on a level so profound that words become useless, on a level where art becomes magic and magic – art.