Saturday, April 23, 2022

Venice - Palazzo Grassi Marlene Dumas - Open-End - Exhibition

Palazzo Grassi  
Marlene Dumas - Open-End 
At Palazzo Grassi - Marlene Dumas  - Open-End - curated by Caroline Bourgeois in collaboration with the artist, until January 8 2023 -  is the first comprehensive solo show exposing the work of Dumas in Italy, as part of the cycle of monographic shows organised by the Pinault Collection dedicated to major contemporary artists. It brings together over one hundred works from the Pinault Collection as well as from international museums and private collections. The focus is on the artist’s recent work including paintings created with the Venetian exhibition in mind, and has been broadened by a selection of paintings and drawings achieved between 1984 and today.



“Poetry is writing that breathes and makes jumps and leaves spaces open, so we can read between the lines”


The exhibition unfolds over the two floors of Palazzo Grassi and retraces the founding themes of Marlene Dumas’ artistic research through a poetic rhythm, sometimes at a fast pace, sometimes more slowly, with works of small dimensions and others very large, as if the exhibition somehow echoed the artist’s own definition of poetry: “Poetry is writing that breathes and makes jumps and leaves spaces open, so we can read between the lines”. 
Kissed - 2018 
 I am an artist who uses second-hand images and first-hand emotions”. 
A crucial aspect of  Dumas's work is her use of pre-existing images from which she draws inspiration, be it images from newspapers, magazines or films, be it film stills or polaroids she herself has taken. Of her work she says: “I am an artist who uses second-hand images and first-hand emotions”. Love and death, gender and race, innocence and blame, violence and tenderness are among the topics she addresses and through which the intimate sphere evokes socio-political aspects, news stories and main topics of art history. 
Awkward - 2018 

“I thought a lot about what binds all my works together, trying to find a title that would also reflect my state of mind and my perception of the world around me. I thought about the lockdown, about being locked and about the museums that are closed to the public and that Palazzo Grassi will have to be open to present this exhibition. Then I thought about the word ‘open’ and about how my paintings are open to different interpretations. In my works the viewer immediately sees what I painted but does not yet know the meaning of it. Where the work starts is not where it ends. The word ‘end’, which in the context of the pandemic has its own implications, is both fluid and melancholic”. 
Marlene Dumas
A most influential artist on the contemporary art scene, Marlene Dumas was born in 1953 in Cape Town, South Africa. She grew up and studied fine arts during the Apartheid regime. In 1976, she came to Europe for further studies and settled in Amsterdam, where she still lives and works. Marlene Dumas today works mainly with oil on canvas and ink on paper. Her work largely consists of portraits and human figures, which are universal representations of the full spectrum of human emotions. 
In Milan you can see Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, as well as the sculpture Michelangelo was working on at the time of his death, the Pietà Rondanini. Michelangelo wrestled with this subject, but was unable to complete it. The sculpture represents Mother Mary trying to lift the corpse of her son in order to give him life a second time. Here we see a grieving mother in a desperate struggle to reconcile herself to the loss of her son. 
 Homage to Michelangelo - 2012
“Painting is about the trace of the human touch. It is about the skin of a surface. A painting is not a postcard.”
 Dumas's work is based on an awareness that the endless flow of images we see daily impacts our perception of ourselves and our ability to read the world. For her, painting is a very physical act, revolving around eroticism and its different histories. Marlene Dumas’ work focuses on the representation of human figures dealing with the most intense emotions and paradoxes: “Painting is about the trace of the human touch. It is about the skin of a surface. A painting is not a postcard.”
 The Visitor - 1995
During the 1990s, Dumas created several large-scale sets of portrait drawings in grid formations. The models for Betrayal were based on a wide diversity of photographic images. Among them are, for example, gallerists, friends, and even Nazis. The frog in the drawing refers to an evil omen, like the frog in the disturbing Bergman film The Virgin Spring - 1960.
Betrayal - 1994

"By her very title, Marlene Dumas expresses her taste for paradox and melancholy: a priori, the end of something, the end, in particular of a life, is in itself the opposite of aperture, open; it is the moment at which everything is terminated, and closes.
Between these two words that read as one are all the tensions, the irresolutions, the potentials of language poetically evoked by Marlene Dumas, because she is also a poet. As though poetry alone, in painting and in words, could share these possibilities that are life (
open) and death (end
) at the same time." 
Caroline Bourgeois
Curator at Pinault Collection
Co-curator of the exhibition - Caroline Bourgeois and Bruno Racine
 Director and CEO of Palazzo Grassi
The Particularity of Nakedness is a horizontal nude portrait of Dumas’ lover at the time, and later life partner, and father of her daughter, the painter Jan Andriesse - 1950-2021. The figure was composed by joining together different Polaroid photographs that Dumas had taken in her studio, which accounts for the unnatural perspective of the pose.
The Particularity of Nakedness - 1987

The Painter brings together Dumas’ principal themes: the portrait, the nude, and her chosen medium – painting. We see an image of a young girl, which we might read variously as vulnerable and strong, innocent and hostile. Her hands are coated with deep red and dark blue paint; her naked belly is light blue. Larger than life, she confronts us with a piercing gaze. In Birth his larger-than-life image of a naked, pregnant woman was born out of Dumas’ endeavor to create a different type of Venus. Trawling through art history Dumas used various models and muses and made them her own. At the time this painting was made, Marlene’s daughter Helena was pregnant. She gave birth to her son Eden on the day of the opening of Marlene’s exhibition Myths and Mortals, where Birth was shown for the first time.
The Painter - 1994 - Birth - 2018

I have painted more women than men I paint women for men I paint women for women I paint the women of my men"
Marlene Dumas 
Dora Maar - The Woman Who saw Picasso cry - 2008 

"Paintings tell stories. As zombies walk the earth, I moved slowly from the faces to the bodies. From the eyes to the skin. From the word to the flesh."
Marlene Dumas
Alien - 2017 - Spring - 2017 - Amazon - 2016 
 Bride is both a vertical field of painted lines, edged in with dark sides that hint at an Egyptian mummy in her coffin or a widow without a groom.
Bride - 2018

Eye is painted with rough brushstrokes and fluid, dripping paint, this picture of a single staring eye seems unfinished. The extreme cinematographic closeup recalls the surrealist horror scene from the 1929 movie Un Chien Andalou by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali. After that, no image of an eye feels safe anymore, even though the model for this painting was a “harmless" cosmetic advertisement for mascara. Eyes are often called mirrors of the soul, but take care to protect yourself from the gaze of the evil eye.
Eye - 2018 
"I situate art not in reality but in relation to desire."
Marlene Dumas 

The Hierarchy painting from 1992 was based on a still from the 1976 French-Japanese movie In the Realm of the Senses, a very sensual, controversial film about sexual obsession, with a fatal ending, directed by Nagasi Oshima
Hierarchy - 1992 

Dumas produced two series of works on paper, which were intended as illustrations for the Dutch translation of William Shakespeare’s poem Venus and Adonis - 1593 - by Hafid Bouazza in 2016. Shakespeare’s story drew on Ovid’s mythological poem Metamorphoses.
Venus and Adonis I - 2015-2016 
Kissing - as a verb
Kissing - 2018

Scent of a Flower is inspired by her work on the two Venus and Adonis series. Dumas followed them with a number of intimately-scaled canvases that focus on details of various parts of the body and face, which the artist refers to as “erotic landscapes." These works relate closely to Shakespeare’s extensive writings about the five senses in which he describes how the state of being in love affects a person. 
  Scent of a Flower - 2018

"Homage to the Polaroid The only camera I ever liked and used was the Polaroid camera. The Polaroid, always and only, true to its own sublime distorted nature. Fast and fickle and hands-on physical, indifferent to digital vanity. Cheap and expensive at the same time. No copy and no negative."
Marlene Dumas
The Occult Revival - 1984 

The work is a collaboration between Marlene Dumas and her daughter Helena then aged five. Helena decorated, improved, and worked with color as if applying make-up on Dumas’ black and white ink wash drawings of female faces which she found boring. It was her underground. It was not set up as an art project but it was the child’s subversion of her mother’s work that led to this series. Helena enjoyed working over the drawings, which until then had never been allowed to touch.
Underground - 1994-1995
Marlene Dumas in collaboration with her daughter - Helena
Green Lips - Monica - L. - Mama as Belly Dancer - 1996
Marlene Dumas in collaboration with her daughter - Helena
The Ritual - with Doll - 1992

"Painting as a shadow play Painting as a gesture The making of a move towards Painting is about something that isn't there."
Marlene Dumas 
The Origin of Painting - The Double Room - 2018 - Time and Chimera - 2020  The Making of - 2020

The inspiration for this work was a tombstone for a husband and wife from 1474, located in the Pieterskerk in the Dutch city of Leiden. The stone was embedded in the floor of the old church, where, for centuries, congregants and visitors walked over it. The seemingly naked couple stand with their hands crossed over their genitalia. Their sexuality has been deleted by time. Dumas painted the Tombstone Lovers in a desperate moment of impatience against the ticking of the clock, while  trying to gasp the notion of eternity.
 Tombstone Lovers - 2021 
De acteur - Portrait of Romana Vrede - The Actor - 2019
Io - 2008

"On Words and Images I can see why many visual artists dislike words in artworks. They feel that words dirty the clear water that has to reflect the sky. It disturbs the pleasure of the silent image, the freedom from history, the beauty of nameless forms. I want to name our pains. I want to keep on changing our names." 
Marlene Dumas 
 Great Men - series of drawings - 2014-present - detail 

Dumas painted Wilde not as the proud and popular author he used to be but as the mournful and vulnerable man he became in relation to the young lover who led to his tragic end. 
 Oscar Wilde - 2016 

Groupshow depicts a row of naked women from the back, all looking in the same direction over a fence at something that we cannot see. It was based on a photograph in a nudist magazine from the 1960s. Dumas removed it from its original context and turned it into a conceptual work as a commentary on art, or more specifically, a humors commentary on group shows in general.
Groupshow - 1993

 Blindfolded - 2002

"When my mother was alive I never painted flowers for her. After her death, in 2007, I tried to paint the flowers on her grave. I wanted to paint a portrait of her without painting her. I was trying to paint something that had no end."
Marlene Dumas
Einder - Horizon - 2007-2008 

 The title comes from an Afrikaans poem by Elizabeth Eybers, in which the word “einder" suggests both “the end”, and a horizon one cannot reach.






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