Opera Gallery Geneva is pleased to present Giants, an exhibition displaying a selection of Modern, Post-War and Contemporary masterworks by acclaimed artists, whose innovative practices have placed them at the forefront of their fields. Featuring Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Marc Chagall, Fernand Léger, Alexander Calder, Jean Dubuffet, Pierre Soulages, Kazuo Shiraga, Yayoi Kusama, Niki de Saint Phalle, Keith Haring, Alex Katz, Ed Ruscha and Josef Albers, this exhibition brings together a diverse group of artists, who each in their own way have shaped the international art scene. This presentation creates and prompts dialogues between artworks from different time periods, places and styles and celebrates the spirit and genius of these Giants, whose insight and vision produced crowning achievements in art and culture over the past few decades.
I wanted to make some of the really important things of my generation and some of the biggest.
Set against a glowing beam of orange light, Ruscha's Call Me Angel Chile captures the artist's masterful ability to mine the American lexicon for inspiration. Harkening back to Ed Ruscha's early text paintings of the 60's and pastel works on paper from the 70's, Call Me Angel Chile is exemplary of his most iconic compositions in which the depiction of language as image presents an irresistibly seductive visual experience. The artist's white, stenciled command can be read as either a playful rhyme—a purely imagined, uneven couplet of sorts— or the phrase could attribute the artist's historic preoccupation with music to this work. The phrase ‘call me angel child’ is a lyric in Buddy Holly's 1958 tune Ting-a-Ling, and Angel Chile is also the title of a track on Jeanne Lee's 1975 improvisational jazz album titled “Conspiracy.” Ed Ruscha spent his time in jazz clubs in the 1950's and has referenced music as one of his inspirations, particularly with regard to the disruptive nature of words and phrases.
Crag with Red Heart stakes a concrete claim by invoking the universal symbol of love in place of abstract forms. While the heart exists as the physical source of life, it also asserts itself as the emotional well out of which fervour and feeling flood. Hanging in delicate equilibrium with the three saucers, Calder's heart reveals the tension pursuant to any passion - the beloved weighed against the obliged, the dreaming conflict with reality. Although Calder surrenders interpretation to the viewer in real time, this Crag suggests the inescapable struggle each human undergoes when deciding a life course. Like the crag itself, such a course is seldom linear and rarely complete. Thus, this intimate stabile is as much about what is missing as what is present. The figure-ground concerns introduced by the black foundation and echoed by the wire balancing mechanism allude to the spaces carved in one's heart by love lost and found. In so doing, the work renders itself whole yet again - a microcosm of choices, triumphs, and failures on courageous, vulnerable display.
Kazuo Shiraga is best known for his involvement with the Gutai group, the first radical, avant-garde artistic group in Japan, and his innovative technique of painting. Throwing away his brushes and rejecting his hands as too trained, he began painting with his feet, which enabled a fresh and direct mode of expression.
In Portrait de Dora Maar, Picasso distorts the striking features he so loved about this woman, translating her flowing dark hair, seductive eyes and strong nose into angular, linear projections. A tight smile graces her lips in keeping with the later, post-Weeping Woman works, belying the complexities and strain of life in the midst of occupied France. The palette is muted, like so many of the artist's war time works, which were often painted in the dim candlelight of the evening. Picasso's keen draftsmanship pervades this work as his restrained handling of the paint and bold brevity of line achieve the impact of a much larger composition.
Veiled in a delicate lattice of small loops and curls, Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Nets enthralls with its brilliant white and poetic splendor. Swoops and coils blanket the canvas in a gauzelike web that is at once engulfing and mesmerizing, and the painting's intricacy of detail beckons us closer. The hypnotic strokes that roll across the surface of the canvas envelop the viewer, completely consuming the surface of the work. The composition is made up of semi-circular arches of pigment, leaving only the slightest glimpses of a soft layer of underpainting. Kusama's strokes vary fromlight applications of paint, to more globular strokes that allow for one to directly note the artist's hand. Across the painting's surface, thick crests of impasto peak and then give way to smooth circlets, rising and falling in rhythmic swells and creating the impression of lace floating on serene ocean waves. Mirroring the quiet repetition that went into its making, Infinity Nets stimulates introspection and transcendence, and lulls its viewers into a meditative state.
I like to make an image that is so simple you can't avoid it, and so complicated you can't figure it out..
I was always totally amazed that the people I would meet while I was doing them were really, really concerned with what they meant. The first thing anyone asked me, no matter how old, no matter who they were, was, ‘What does it mean?’
Every perception of colour is an illusion, we do not see colors as they really are. In our perception they alter one another.
The Hourloupe cycle began with drawings and paintings. After that I felt the need to associate reliefs on these paintings to give them more life and the result is painted and sculpted panels.
During his life, Alberto Giacometti created heads and busts in drawing, sculpture and painting. More particularly he made several painted busts in the second half of the 1940s. This painting is one of the rare profile busts painted by Giacometti. It probably is the representation of a sculpture whose subject is rather difficult to identify today.
The face is without details; black strokes alone sketch the contours and the general physiognomy of the head. The brown background is schematised by straight lines that frame the subject with a “window”, a tool often used by Giacometti. The re-framing of the painting with the black frame around the character enables us to concentrate our gaze on the bust and place it in a well-defined space.
Fernand Léger often painted two women together. The pairing of figures allowed him to explore the shapes and patterns created by the symmetrical image. Here the women are seen with their limbs intertwined, relaxed and at ease. One holds a flower, a symbol of natural beauty and fertility. The figures are drawn as outlines on an abstract background of bright coloured rectangles, giving the painting a sense of energy and movement.
Marc Chagall always strove to remain true to his canon of stories and yet to constantly renew his art. The areas of colour set in strong colours, with which he began to structure the works compositionally and in terms of content, certainly belong to such special innovations in the oeuvre. The mystical animal in yellow pays a visit to a house in Vitebsk, the artist's hometown. It shines out of itself onto the surroundings and stands for the unshakeable power of inspiration. Mother and child travel with the animal, the sky in red is crowned by a pair of lovers. A very colourful and creative painting that literally becomes a feast for the senses.
Manolo Valdés comments on the juxtaposition between the static faces of his sculptures and their dynamic headdresses, stating, “I must admit that I adore the pronounced tension that is established between the two parts; it's as if they were two entirely different sculptures. The challenge is having them function as a harmonious whole, as well as allowing their initial different formulation to be seen not as something separate but as something enriching.”