Egor Bogachev’s ‘Russian Monroe’

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Artist Egor Bogachev is featured in ‘Russian Neon‘, a new exhibition at Erarta Zurich, Switzerland, on display until May 20. His work explores icons of religion, politics and pop culture, blending such disparate figures as Marilyn and Vladimir Lenin.

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“Bogachev’s series Russian Crusades takes contemporary pop culture idols and reworks them as religious icons, combining tsarist garb with neon halos to create works which are ‘symbols of the ambivalent cultural self-discovery of Russia after the end of the Soviet Union.’

In his second series, Lenin Line, Bogachev’s work centres on the Russian leader, whose face is merged with a number of spiritual symbols. Inspired in part by the photography of Russian artist and constructivist pioneer Alexander Rodchenko, the neon colours present psychedelic images of the historical leader intended to ‘neutralise the pathos of Lenin as a historical figure.'” – Nadia Beard, Calvert Journal

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Philippe Halsman: ‘Astonish me!’

Marilyn graces the cover of Philippe Halsman: Astonish Me!, a new, 320pp book about the Latvian-born photographer, accompanying an exhibition at the Museé de l’Elyseé at Lausanne in Switzerland, will be published this month in the UK, with the US edition following in February.

“Salvador Dali’s flamboyant moustache, Richard Nixon jumping in the West Wing, Grace Kelly’s amazing profile—these are just a few of the images that achieved iconic status and helped make photographer Philippe Halsman an icon in his own right. Comprising hundreds of photographs and insightful accompanying texts, this volume explores Halsman’s oeuvre in a variety of aspects. It examines his early career exhibiting works at the avant-garde La Pleiade Gallery in Paris; his experiments with portraiture, particularly the series of stunning images of Marilyn Monroe and his more than 100 covers for Life magazine; his pictures of the contemporary art scene that include famous dancers, movie stars, stage actors, and musicians and the birth of his ‘jumpology’ concept; and his unique, 30-year collaboration with Salvador Dali, including a book devoted entirely to the artist’s moustache. Anyone interested in portraiture, celebrity, or performance will marvel at the breadth and magnificence of Halsman’s work, which is definitively presented in this beautiful volume.”

Carson, Marilyn, and the ‘Clock Without Hands’

Marilyn and Carson McCullers, 1959

The novelist Carson McCullers became friendly with Marilyn in 1955, while they were both living at New York’s Gladstone Hotel. Four years later, they were reunited for a literary luncheon with Marilyn’s husband, Arthur Miller, and the Danish author, Isak Dinesen.

Carson’s final novel, Clock Without Hands, was published in 1961. Like most of her work, it is set in her native South. Even more than her earlier books, Clock Without Hands deals with racism and bigotry, at a time when America’s Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum.

While reading, I was interested to find a reference to Marilyn in the first paragraph of Chapter 11 – a passage about Jester Clane, a teenage boy who disagrees with his grandfather’s prejudiced attitudes. Marilyn appears to him in a dream.

(Marilyn owned one of Carson’s novels, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe. I wonder if she knew that she was mentioned in another?)

“Who am I? What am I? Where am I going? Those questions, the ghosts that haunt the adolescent heart, were finally answered for Jester. The uneasy dreams about Grown Boy, which had left him guilty and confused, no longer bothered him. And gone were the dreams of saving Sherman from a mob and losing his own life while Sherman looked on, broken with grief. Gone also were the dreams of saving Marilyn Monroe from an avalanche in Switzerland and riding through a hero’s ticker tape in New York. That had been an interesting daydream, but after all, saving Marilyn Monroe was no career. He had saved so many people and died so many hero’s deaths. His dreams were always in foreign countries. Never in Milan, never in Georgia, but always in Switzerland or Bali or someplace. But now his dreams had strangely shifted. Both night dreams and daydreams. Night after night he dreamed of his father. And having found his father he was able to find himself. He was his father’s son and he was going to be a lawyer. Once the bewilderment of too many choices was cleared away, Jester felt happy and free.”

Parreno’s Marilyn Unveiled

Philippe Parreno has talked about his new video installation, now on display at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland.

“Why did you choose to make a film about Marilyn? 

Philippe Parreno: It started with a little book that a friend sent me of fragments from her notebooks—and what I liked was her handwriting.

So you were attracted by her words and her writing, and not her face or her image. 

The book was published because this year people are celebrating her death, and in my work I am interested in celebration. I was interested in the idea of celebrating a dead person, of trying to portray a ghost. Why are ghosts interesting? Because they are unfinished, heterogenous. Marilyn Monroe represents the first time that the unconscious killed the person—her image killed her. So we had to use an image to bring her back. The film is the portrait of a phantom incarnated in an image. Or, to use a neologism, an attempt to produce a “carnated” image.

The film is almost the opposite of your Zidane film, in which one person is scrutinised for 90 minutes. Marilyn is shot from her point of view, but you never see her: you see her writing and hear her voice, but these are generated by machines. 

Yes, there is an uncanniness to the whole mise-en-scène…the camera becomes her eyes looking around the room.

Your fictitious evocation of Marilyn’s room at the Waldorf Astoria is also very cinematic. 

The idea of cinema as exhibition is another aspect. The room at the Astoria that I have recreated is basically an exhibition space, so when you enter the room at the Beyeler, you will have the feeling that you are entering two exhibition spaces, one containing the other.”

Read interview in full at The Art Newspaper

Philippe Pareno’s Fragments of Marilyn

The artist Philippe Pareno – best known for his 2006 video, Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait – has recreated a new work about Marilyn, inspired by the book Fragments, and to be unveiled in Switzerland this summer, reports The Art Newspaper:

“The ghost of the American icon Marilyn Monroe haunts a new video by the artist Philippe Parreno, which is due to be shown at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel this summer (10 June-30 September). In the work, we see the world through Monroe’s eyes as she looks around her Waldorf Astoria hotel suite and sits at her desk to write. Parreno has recreated the room in detail, down to the wallpaper.”