Both Elles/SAM and the Pompidou collection offer a lot–a LOT–to take in and mull over. The Elles/SAM show was delicious, it was a real pleasure to see so much Helen Frankenthaler, for example. And big big Joan Mitchell (the earlier the better IMHO), and lots of Yayoi Kusama, and many others.
And then the Pompidou. It was a fascinating move from early works where artists took back the objectified female body and myth–one of my fave pieces was the Blue Room, a fully clothed typical reclining-nude-posture depicted by Suzanne Valadon who goes one step further and puts a cigarette in the mouth of the ample, self-aware woman. The arc of this objectification reconsidered moves into the 60s and 70s, an era that resonated personally for me. It was a painful period of internalizing and spitting back out all the fractals of objectification; it was an era of grappling with big big big questions–everything from war to politics-is-personal to “freedom” and fury and destruction of old assumptions.
In many of the works, this urge to destroy objectification plays with objectification itself, taking the power out of it…but in some cases, the works seemed gratuitious, powerless, opting simply for shock value, rather than images that would really knock the scaffolding out from under the powerful. The artists aimed to hurt and maim themselves–to damage the goods, as it were. Barbed Hula by S. Landau has stayed with me.
It reminded me of eco-terrorists from a decade ago or so who “spiked” trees in old growth forests–scarring them, making them too dangerous to cut, lest the power tools of the forest industry hit one of the spikes. The trees grow around the spike, but the spike is there, the trees are scarred, and since the tree is damaged, its “value” is lessened–it may live a long and undisturbed life as a result.