Balthus: The Last Studies (Anglais) Relié – 1 février 2014
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..." A big bunch of Polaroids (over a thousand) that the artist Balthus never intended to show to the world are now ...printed in a book .... And while these rare jewels are being showcased for a few, there is a significant effort being made to keep these pictures out of the hands of the general public.
"Balthus ... went to his grave without ever declaring these Polaroids or anything made with emulsion and light-sensitive paper to be his art, while those of us who have been lucky enough to see these Polaroids now find ourselves reacting to this new unauthorized addition to the artist’ oeuvre—unsure if we are thrilled to be informed or if we are burdened by this new and incriminating visual evidence.
..."I had not intended to review these Polaroids.
...Balthus’ photographs are a very soft-core form of, um, well, “kiddy appreciation.” Right on the line of inappropriateness, they could be called “ultra soft” core, like the toilet paper. They feel perfectly safe, and perfectly friendly, and are not the least bit seedy.
"In this context of epic transgression, Balthus would be thought of as totally harmless. ....
Balthus, in other words, was getting in touch with his inner extended puberty. I like to refer to this as the “eternal coming-of-age story,” and we all have the capacity to live this life....
..."The story has it that between 1990 and 2000, Anna—the youngest daughter of Balthus’ doctor—was recruited to be Balthus’ model. She began the ritual of coming to the chalet to pose when she was merely 8, and the dance continued every Wednesday afternoon until she was 16!
"The critic Ingrid Sischy, who reviewed the Polaroids in their debut show at Gagosian’s New York gallery in 2013, describes the scene well: “Anna is dressed in either a tartan or a white dress when she is younger, typically posing in an armchair, but as time goes on she moves to a chaise lounge and wears a brocade robe that sometimes falls open, so she’s partially nude.”
"And I would add my own observation that the knee of the back leg is usually up and the front leg is usually bent down—extending off the edge of the daybed into the foreground and out of the frame. Thus the picture is open and inviting, but also cozy and nurturing. With each repeating close-up (often completely out of focus), the artist attempts to lock in and stabilize the figure. The back arm is often thrown up over the model’s head, while the front arm is usually down and relaxed. The geometry formed by the slanted arms and legs is frequently that of the running man symbol or swastika.
"One excellent feature of the Steidl book is a short text written by Anna Wahli...
...."Now, due to the Polaroids, we get to leave the artist’s primary medium of painting and drawing behind, maybe for the first time ever. We get to “go it alone” without the marriage of his beloved medium. We get to see what he saw (or didn’t see; ironically). These Polaroids are suddenly activated by our gaze on the muse and the muse’s performance for us—not for Balthus.
..."By reacting so strongly and with such pleasure to the Polaroids aren’t I validating them and thus undermining the artist’s intentions to “say it” in paint? And yet, I feel like these Polaroids may be among his greatest achievement, and I am glad that they were put out in the world."
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