It is a double exhibition which is presented at Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Bois de Boulogne. A retrospective of 50 of Joan Mitchell‘s works which was first in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and at the Baltimore Museum of Art and has been added on with paintings from Monastère de Brou and Centre Pompidou for Paris. And on the three upper floors, is a confrontation of Monet’s last waterlilies with Joan Mitchell’s works in Vétheuil (located 18 kms from Giverny), an exhibition co-organized by Musée Marmottan Monet (who lent 25 works) and the Foundation. A double team is also at the origin of these two shows, Suzanne Pagé and Angeline Scherf, who worked with her since 1988, at the Museum of Modern Art Paris. In Pantin, Miquel Barcelo occupies the large space of the Thaddaeus Ropac gallery with his “grisailles”. Both venues are so large that works become more gigantic from the way they hang. It is both very powerful and sometimes overwhelming.
What is astonishing when you walk into the first room of the exhibition, is the size of the works and of the space. As Joan Mitchell’s series “La Grande Vallée”, painted in 1983-1984 is reunited after four decades, Claude Monet’s 13 m long triptych “Agapanthus” , held in three different American museums, Cleveland, St Louis and Kansas city’s Nelson Atkins, is also reassembled for the first time since 1956. At the time when it is rumored that Bernard Arnault is buying the global gallery Gagosian, this very luxurious exhibition takes the allure of a coup. The rooms are sometimes a little sparse with large white walls creating a void in the continuity of the exhibition but the confrontation between the two 20 th century artists works well.
There are some moving moments where Monet’s studies of irises dialogue with Mitchell’s pastels of “Saccades”, based on poems by Jacques Dupin and Monet’s very abstract red “Japanese bridge” or “The artist’s house seen from the rose garden” clash well with her canvases. Mitchell (1925-1992) had an interesting literary life. After graduating from the Art Institute in Chicago, she travelled extensively in Europe and married, in the Lavandou in 1949, the avant-garde publisher Barney Rosset, who founded Grove (now Grove Atlantic) and is famous for having published Samuel Beckett in America. She became part of the New York School in the 1950’s, along Helen Frankenthaler and Elaine de Kooning and participated in the Ninth Street show organized by Leo Castelli in 1951.
When arriving in Paris in 1955, she meets Canadian artist Jean Paul Riopelle and spends time with Sam Francis and Shirley Jaffe. Then the Whitney Museum acquires one of her works at the Venice Biennale and she takes part in the Documenta in 1958. Her first major show in France will be at the Museum of Modern Art Paris in 1982. She declared at the time how influenced she was by the light and the fields in Normandy. Thirty years after her death in Paris, this new retrospective pays a wonderful tribute to the artist.
In Pantin, at the superb galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Miquel Barceló shows large scale still lives with sea creatures, flowers and shells, sometimes invaded by a donkey or a cow. This time the Mallorcan artist has integrated “dusty and sizzling” charcoal with vibrant pigment blown directly onto the canvas, thus creating grisaille. One painting from this series is part of the exhibition “Les Choses” at the Louvre at the moment.
The Pantin gallery is one of the most cheerful places for art around Paris and I recommend that you go by car because public transportation is a little tiring. But once you get there, a sweet little cafeteria welcomes you and the light in the building is a great boost. Barceló is known for his mixed media paintings, ceramics and the famous terracotta decor of Palma de Mallorca’s cathedral. He also worked in Africa creating sculptures with the Dogons in Mali.
Until January 7 at Thaddaeus Ropac Pantin.
Joan Mitchell is at Fondation Louis Vuitton until February 27.
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