Small Stories by David Lynch

David Lynch’s avant-garde aesthetic is true to his practice—be it film, painting, photography, design or music. His recent exhibition Small Stories at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris is comprised of photographs that indulge an instinctual exploration into our subconscious, free from worldly conditioning and typical of Lynch’s preoccupation with the human psyche. Lynch presents unassuming scenes that are strangely abstracted, compelling the viewer to delve into the frame and compose a subjective purpose. Upon entry, the wall text explains the show’s intent: “Still images can contain stories. Small stories take place during a very short period of time. However, the mind and emotions can become engaged by looking at a still image, and small stories can grow into huge stories. It depends, of course, on the viewer.”

The artist is present in each photograph—in fetishistic objects, claymation-like forms, phantomastical compositions, recurring motifs of seeds with the potentiality of life, enlarged and often deconstructed heads overfilled with scattered thoughts. Of the forty some photographs produced especially for the show, there are series of heads (titled Head 1, 2, 3...), shop window displays (titled Window with plant/ flower/head, etc.) and room interiors (titled Interiors 1, 2, 3…). Besides these, there are other Lynchian dreamscapes inspired by personal memories: a photograph of seven lit candles on a dusky beach, William Boroughs standing with a sheep, and a boy with a rocking horse and toy plane.

Displayed in three rooms on the top floor of the museum, the images are in Lynch’s favored grainy black-and-white style, for he admittedly enjoys the luring depth of black[1], that colour would reveal all too starkly. Thematically, they remain much in the gray—murky, mysterious, and surreal, where forms overlap and morph, remaining quintessentially obscure. In an age where we are bombarded with images loaded with ideas intended to reveal a “truth,” Lynch’s photographs entice us to imagine beyond the limitations of known form. The exhibition reveals a dystopian world vision, but one that is possibly reflected in our own minds. The work appears to be eccentric, where there are neither rules of looking nor any specific underlying theme. Yet in doing so, Lynch successfully employs dreams to question the nature of our reality.

Small Stories is on view at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris from 15 January- 16 March 2014.

[1] Paul Young. "Talking Art: Wild at Art." in: Buzz Inc. 1993. (English)

The Political Line by Keith Haring

Co-hosted by Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and Centequatre in Paris, The Political Line is one of the largest retrospectives of Keith Haring’s work, comprising over 200 works on paper and an impressive series of sculptures spanning his career from 1978 to his untimely death in 1990.

For Haring, the making of art was a public performance, its outcome accessible to all and its content topical. As a way to pay tribute to the activism in his art, A Political Line is thematically divided in response to Haring’s reoccurring subjects of social justice, ranging from his opposition of excessive state control and abuses of capitalism, to racism, religious dogma, threat of nuclear war and the vices of mass media. His final campaign was for safe sex amongst homosexual men, which began in 1988 when he was diagnosed with HIV.

Haring’s works are defined by a frantic and impulsive energy that repeats itself in figurative outlines and gestures that loop into one another emphasizing a sense of urgency in the same manner that one would use bold or capital letters in text. Universally used signs and symbols are placed within a new context, provocatively revitalized by a hard-hitting vigor. A barking dog is humanized as the evil leader of the pack, a crawling baby radiates innocence, snakes and spaceships suggest apocalyptic hell, and green rivers of envy denounce the supremacy of the dollar.

The use of caricatured figures and ironic humor in Haring’s early works, like Untitled, 1981 make them hopeful in their critique, reflective of a rebellious youthful energy. But his later works show a growing despondency in his own idealism. Although the sharpness of critique never lightens, the visual language discerns a change toward darker commentary. Paintings of monstrous creatures spewing consumer commodities or a bleeding globe as seen in Michael Stewart– USA for Africa, 1985 proliferate more than the witty collages of newspaper cutouts and homoerotic studies.

The exhibition serves as a retrospective of political thought in America and its active subversion through the 1980s, witnessed and animated in the streets, in clubs or in subways. Perhaps it is a timely reminder; a way to question today’s economic recession and political unrest- sentiments behind the Arab Spring or the Occupy Movements?

While Centquatre hosts monumental works, including the 25 ft. high arched panels Ten Commandments, 1985, a stark personal take on the depravity of religious faith and lifestyle; the exhibition’s themed sections at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris end with Unfinished Painting, 1989. Replete with the iconic drips and loops that he claimed reflected an unrestrained form within a defined space, the abrupt incompletion of an energy so fanatic makes it rather melancholic; leaving the visitor with a mixed sense of guilt and dismay. 

The Political Line is on view at Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and at Centquatre from 19 April- August 18, 2013.




Lives in Transit by Adrian Paci

In his first solo exhibition in France titled Lives in Transit, Albanian artist Adrian Paci addresses notions of belonging and loss in a diverse series of work made since 1997, dating to the civil war in Albania. Most of Paci’s works employ gesture and ritual in an investigative deliberation into the effects of socio-economic conditions on identity. Five rooms of the prestigious Jeu de Paume in Paris are dedicated to the artist’s work. 

The first room of the exhibition comprises videos that each addresses a degree of identity by way of a greeting- The Encounter, 2011, a celebration- Passages, 2010, a death- The Mourner, 2002 and a perennial displacement- Centre of Temporary Residence, 2007. In each, we are privy to an exalted deed, but one that is also clearly dramatized, acted, and intended to challenge our reality. In the staging of all his works, Paci takes a distance from personal experiences that influence his art, using fiction to make the narration more potent and also more bizarre. 

The next chapter of the exhibition explores more intimate relations, of familial bonds and sexual roles, of power, deceit and shame- what governs them and the twisted ways they are often played out. For example, Electric Blue, 2010 tells the story of a man who is forced into pirating pornographic films as a means of livelihood in the post war crunch. Having been found out by his adolescent son, he re-tapes the footage with scenes of war from the news. The resulting film is an absurd montage of recurring clips from both porn and war.

Paci then explores his role as an artist, as site and subject, albeit insinuating the attitudes and impressions prevalent in society that frame his work- that have loaded it in content and that have at times, stripped it of humor and/or dignity. He poignantly uses his own body; either broken by the weight of an upturned roof tied to his back in Home to Go, 2011 or witness to suspicion of child abuse in Believe me I am an Artist, 2000.

The exhibition concludes with a video installation, The Column, 2013 created specifically for the show. The film exemplifies through the life cycle of a marble block the bearings of production efficiency in a poetic sea journey from East to West wherein Chinese sculptors transform the block on board the vessel into a magnificent Roman column, now planted in the Jardin des Tuileries.

Lives in Transit is on view until May 12, 2013 and is a must see for all in Paris. For more information, please visit Jeu de Paume, Paris.