|Van Gogh: The Railway Wagons, 1888|
Arles is of course closely associated with Van Gogh, and one can walk between the sites of the yellow house, night café, bridges and hospital courtyard which he painted: though he lived there for little more than a year (February 1888 - May 1889) the majority of his mature work was painted in the area. Yet there wasn’t a single Van Gogh work on view in Arles: the only one I saw was in Avignon, where Van Gogh changed trains on his way, and painted the spatially interesting but not-especially-iconic ‘The Railway Wagons’, which is now at the Angladon Museum.
|From Sol Le Witt: Autobiography|
Le temps retrouvé: Cy Twombly photographer and guest artists
The French mega-dealer Yvon Lambert’s personal collection is based at a foundation in Avignon. That currently has a fascinating show on the theme of lost time in photographs, jointly curated with the late Cy Twombly and starring such as Brancusi’s photographic records of his sculpture, Sol LeWitt’s regimented 1056+ images of his house, Ruscha’s parking lots and Sugimoto’s seas…. culminating a tad under-climactically, however, with several rooms of Twombly’s own blurred still life photographs.
|Louise Lawler, Bird Call (text with audio recording), 1972. |
|Honey locust beans at the Musee Réattu|
The Musee Réattu in Arles is highly eccentric: you get a mix of the traditional paintings of local artist Jaques Réattu (1760-1833) interspersed with a large clutch of Picasso drawings, lots of less than sparking recent minor French art and intrusive carpets designed by Christian Lacroix – all overlooking the Rhône in the former Grand Priory in which Réattu lived, and which he left to the city. But with all due deference to the star piece - Picasso’s portrait of Lee Miller in tradtional Arles dress - the outstanding feature is the tree in the courtyard. It’s a honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos), a US native, with impressive spikes and six inch seed pods which looked as if they were splashed with paint.
Another mixture of old and new was provided by a four-site display of Nice-born Arman (128-2005) in a trail around around the medieval fortress village of Les Baux de Provence, which boasts an imposing castle and the original mines from which bauxite was named. Recreations of his sculpture, painting and collaging practices in studio environments complemented a thorough retrospective of Arman’s characteristic accumulation, stamping, slicing, incarceration, burning and smashing of whatever he could get his hands on. ‘La Chute des Courses’ – stacked supermarket trolleys – looked differently odd against 16th century stonework. And an iconic Van Gogh image was provided at last by one of Arman’s versions of ‘Starry Night’, which generates a whirling obsessiveness parallel to the original by the sheer number of brushes caught up in the production.
The Arles photo festival claims 47 exhibitions in and around the ancient city. The three main themes could be simply categorised as Mexico, the ‘traditional’ art of contemporary photography, and photography in the new media age.
|Graciela Iturbide: Paradoros 1|
The Mexican presence was the most powerful. It included a comprehensive view of the Mexican revolution; the first European showing of Robert Capa’s legendary suitcase of 4500 negatives from the Spanish Civil War, recently rediscovered in Mexico City; powerful solo shows by Enrique Metinides (disasters and accidents), Dulce Pinzon (emigrant workers as superheroes), Maya Goded (the red light district on the US border) and Daniella Rossell (behind the tasteless facades of the rich). The stand-out, though, was the retrospective of Graciela Iturbide, a student of Manuel Alvarez Bravo who came to photography only in her 40’s. Her black and white pictures fuse documentary records of such subjects as desert communities, goat sacrifice and Frida Kahlo’s house with a mythic undercurrent which often focuses on humans with wild animals. That’s seen at its most direct in her snail and snake-covered self-portraits and her use of flocks of birds.
|Mark Ruwedel: Four Palms Spring |
|Visitors examining Frank Schmallmaier's 'Compare' |