Week 8

Allen Jones

Zoe William’s writing in the Guardian about the Allen Jones exhibition at the RA, London until 25 January 2014 ponders where we are in the objectification art-ifying debate, nearly 50 years on.

Chair by Allen Joneshttp://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/nov/10/allen-jones-sexist-art-royal-academy-review?CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

She concludes ‘Did second-wave feminists shoot the messenger? Or did he mangle the message? The debate is still open.’

The debate lingers on in our household too.  My husband owns a postcard of the image, my step-daughter is at a loss to understand her father.  I decided to seek the views of some younger males, in their mid twenties.  I asked them to comment on the image with no context.

My son’s view

Upon first view it struck me as something owned by a person who’s run out of ways to waste their fortune. I’d imagine it to sit alongside various other novelty items which together make up an in cohesive room with no discernible style.

There’s no doubt a market for it amongst the chauvinistic male from the playboy generation who will use the piece primarily as a symbol of power and dominance. However, despite the somewhat offensive undertone for such an image, the craftsmanship and idea behind it is clever and unique.

His friend’s view

I find the image difficult to make sense of. I guess that the initial idea behind furniture like this was to create an air of decadence in a space by referencing taboo bondage and erotic subcultures and turning them into arbitrary items like furniture. I’m not sure it stands up in this day and age though, where the sexually explicit is pretty well accepted as a fact of life by a lot of western culture, to the point where it kind of ceases to be explicit at all.

Once you get over the initial and slightly shocking perception of this object being something which is degrading to women (and I reckon it definitely is), you see a naivety in it. Like it is reflecting our own cosseted attitudes about sex and sexuality in the past, which these days are much more fluid and accepting.

Now, it is probably not much more impactful than as a curio from a bygone age. In fact what’s quite interesting is that a deeper and more powerful message about the subjugation of women has probably become more apparent, as a result of its diminishing power as an erotic object.



I visited the Musee Marmottan029

a beautiful building housing the largest collection of works by  Claude Monet, I believe, in the world.

The current exhibition Impression, soleil levant
L’histoire vraie du chef-d’oeuvre de Claude Monet

focuses on this painting, tracing the history of the Impressionist movement through the works of Monet.

There is also a large collection of works by Berthe Morisot, a woman ahead of her time.

gg2p Berthe Morisot: A Woman French Impressionist in a Man’s World   Berthe Morisot Self Portrait 408

Self portrait

My lasting memory, however, is the huge circular room with maybe 12 large (2 x 1.5m) paintings of water lilies.  I hadn’t realised he had painted them so many times.  A peaceful oasis away from the Parisian traffic.

Frank Gehry

For 6 years my office window overlooked the Richard Roger’s Lloyds’ building in the City, which ignited an interest in contemporary architecture.  I was keen to see the new Frank Gehry built for Louis Vuitton.020

Spectacular, yes, but whereas I could appreciate the reason for the external services on the Roger’s building both at Lloyds and the Pompidou Centre039


I could see no relevance or functional purpose for the sail like structures, in a city centre.  It is difficult to tell whether the covering for the ‘sails’ is glass, but it looks plastic.  Not very Vuitton.

Sonia Delauney

This is the first major Sonia Delaunay retrospective in Paris since 1967, at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. There are over 400 works: paintings, wall decorations, gouaches, prints, fashion items and textiles. Coat made for Gloria Swanson, by Sonia Delaunay, 1923-24.Tracing the artist’s evolution since the beginning of the 20th century to the late 1970s, this exhibition highlights her work in the applied arts, her distinctive place in Europe’s avant-garde movements and her major role as a pioneering abstractionist.Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979) | Orphism Art Movement

Together with her husband Robert she is credited with founding the Orphism movement, noted for its use of strong colours and geometric shapes.

An illustrated poem

A visual feast in the perfect gallery space.

David Altmejd

Canadian sculptor David Altmejd’s exhibition also at the MAM was quite a different experience.  The gallery handout talks of ‘lucid dreams’, and ‘Altmejd works in direct contact with psychic flux. In his “definitive dreamer’s” world action and consciousness merge: he dominates the grotesque and the abject, combines aesthetics and ‘glamour’ and uses his sculptures to explore the worlds of dream and nightmare in a mingled ambience of fascination and terror.’

A huge body of work.

Not sure I understand it, nor would I like to be inside his head.

Raoul Dufy

Raoul Dufy -  La Fée Électricité (1937)

An extraordinary work of 250 canvases housed in a semicircular space at the MAM, measuring 60 x 10m.   The work was commissioned for the International Exhibition in 1937, notably for the concave wall of the Palais de la Lumière et de l’Electricité, built by Mallet Stevens on the Champs-de-Mars. In accordance with the brief from his sponsors, the Compagnie parisienne de Distribution d’Electricité, he told the story of The Electricity Fairy based on De Rerum natura by Lucretius. In this composition he works from right to left on two main themes, the history and applications of electricity, from the earliest observations up to the most modern technical achievements.  The work took 10 months to completed.

Author: susanmilleruk

Watercolour painter living, working and loving Hastings and St Leonards on Sea. MA in Fine Art.

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