Edward Ressle Gallery is delighted to present PROVOCATEUR: From Picabia to Prince, a group exhibition on view from February 7th through March 11th, 2017. Provocateur (prō-vŏk′ə-tûr′) n. ‘one who aims for reaction, incites others to define alternative or innovative thinking and explores new perspectives of seeing and understanding’. The exhibition presents artworks of seminal figures throughout modern and contemporary art history including Hans Bellmer’s La Poupée series, 1930s, and Francis Picabia’s Untitled (Femme nue), ca. 1938-1940, as well as Nobuyoshi Araki’s 67 Shooting Back series, 2007 and Urs Fischer’s Minced, 2010-2011. This historical survey spans from the beginning of the last century to the present, illustrating iconoclastic approaches to artmaking and alternative ways of adopting medium. Equally mythical and provocative, artists in this exhibition collectively express a desire to resist authority, control, and convention.
Countess de Castiglione
Controversial when first exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1990, Jeff Koons’ Made in Heaven series still shocks viewers today. In Red Doggy (Made in Heaven), 1991, Koons and his then-wife, the celebrated Italian porn star Ilona Staller a.k.a. La Cicciolina, played a contemporary Adam and Eve surrounded by surreal symbols. The series eliminates the distinction between art and pornography, high and low culture, emancipating its audience from the shame of the human body and sex. Here Koons questioned the standards of normative values in art and embraced the vulnerability of aesthetic and taste-making hierarchies. Former Guggenheim Museum curator Alison Gingeras explains, “In the process of making Made in Heaven from 1989 to 1992, Jeff Koons became Jeff Koons;” she elaborates, “the markers of his current successes–the auction records, his decoration of Frances Légion d’Honneur, the glowing magazine profiles – are all legitimized by the sincerity he proved with Made in Heaven. Jeff Koons as we know him today was born through porn.”
In Francis Picabia’s late series, Nu devant un paysage, the artist appropriated his paintings from photographs in erotic and fashion magazines to continue his departure from Dadaism and Surrealism. Untitled (Femme nue), ca. 1938-1940 depicts a figure with a heavily shadowed face, deprived of a clear identity. The artwork’s eroticism is cloaked in mystery, a product of the distorted landscape and her averted gaze. Throughout his career, Picabia resisted classification and continued to paint in the spirited, ironic, and provocative style that Femme nue embodies.
Obsessed with her own beauty, the Italian Countess de Castiglione (1837-1899) created a series of photographic self-portraits. Rather than being a passive sitter, she assumed the art director’s role by choosing postures, costumes, and even camera angles. While many of the portraits record the countess’ triumphant moments in Parisian society, she also created alternative identities for herself, drawn from theater, opera, literature, and her own imagination. Ahead of her time, she is seen as forerunner of later artists such as Claude Cahun, Pierre Molinier, and Cindy Sherman. Long before Surrealism existed, the avant-garde vision of the Countess came to be, in Andre Breton’s words, “the original convulsive beauty.”
Featured in this exhibition are several of Richard Prince’s image appropriations in different contexts, including some of his rare early works such as VENUS: Artificial Vagina, 1974, an erotic mixed-media collage that captures his interests in Duchamp, and also the Homogenized to Picasso, 1974, a tribute to Picasso’s painted ceramic plates. Prince not only looks to Modernist Masters, but also plays upon the notion of 21st century commercial and internet imageries. Prince created the controversial New Portraits series by inkjet-printing enlarged Instagram photos onto canvas and adding his own comments beneath. As Instagram stands as the predominant hub of today’s media driven society, Prince harkens back to celebrity portraiture in a Warholian manner and simultaneously engages with the ongoing debate about internet privacy and ownership in our digital age. The exhibition will also feature Prince’s Loud Song, 1985, a new wave music piece recorded by the artist himself in Venice, California. “My band at the time, ‘Him’, played once in 1980 at Jenny Holzer’s loft. By the time I had recorded ‘Loud Song’ in 1985, I had reduced the members of ‘Him’ to one. By 1986, I reduced the only remaining member to no one.” Akin to Francis Picabia’s œuvre, Richard Prince’s artistic career has never been restricted to a single medium or style.
PROVOCATEUR: From Picabia to Prince presents over 30 artworks over a diverse array of media including painting, photography, sound, sculpture, and design. Edward Ressle Gallery would like to thank the Sonnabend Collection, Brant Foundation, William Copley Estate, Jeff Koons Studio, amongst other distinguished private collections for their support and guidance.
For further information, please contact the gallery at email@example.com or at +1.212.641.0608. All images are subject to copyright. Gallery approval must be granted prior to reproduction.