Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1997-1998 index

Distributed January 26, 1998
Contact: Linda Mahdesian

Artist Annette Messager brings her body maps to the Bell Gallery

An exhibition of works by French artist Annette Messager, titled Map of temper, Map of tenderness, will be presented at the David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University from Jan. 31 through March 15, 1998. Messager will speak at an opening reception at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30, at the gallery, 64 College St. in the List Art Center.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University will present an exhibition of recent works by French artist Annette Messager [MEH sah zhay] from Jan. 31 through March 15, 1998. The exhibition, titled Map of temper, Map of tenderness, includes five installation pieces created since 1993.

Messager will be in residence at Brown during the week of Jan. 26, serving as the Distinguished Visiting Artist in the Department of Visual Art. She will present a public lecture at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30. An opening reception for the exhibition will follow. The gallery is located at 64 College St. in the List Art Center. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday; and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free. The exhibition is a joint endeavor of the Bell Gallery and the Department of Visual Art. Messager's lecture is sponsored by the Margerie Ellman Cutler '57 Memorial Fund.

The exhibition title was suggested by the artist and refers to a 17th-century allegorical map, the Carte de tendre (Map of Tender [Regions]), from Clélie, a romantic novel by the French writer Madeleine de Scudéry. Messager likes the idea of maps, adopting their formal elements while subverting their usefulness. In 1988, she created the "Garden of Tender [Regions]," which existed as a schematic drawing and an actual garden. The work included such fanciful creatures and sites as the path of good luck, grove of indiscretions, mirage of tears, branches of forgetfulness, tortoise of longevity and hill of despair.

"Anatomy," from the current exhibition, is a map of human anatomy but certainly not one that could be followed by the medical profession. Comprised of yarn unraveled from 15 sweaters and colored pencil drawings of body organs, the installation stretches across three walls of the gallery. The yarn is draped from drawing to drawing in a weblike configuration. Messager describes the yarn as roadways and the drawings as cities and offers insight into her fascination with the human body by explaining that she grew up in a "town by the sea for people who were sick." She says that because of this experience, "sickness is normal for me." She is referring to Berck-sur-Mer, which is known for its curative waters.

Three related works, which are shown for the first time at the Bell Gallery, turn to the topic of relationships, mapping one possible course of love. Presented on the floor, each piece includes two gloves, colored pencils and black ropes. The pencils protrude from the fingers of the gloves like long fingernails, while the ropes surround them, laid out in shapes that are symbolic of the titles. The work charts a dance that proceeds from "Encounter" to "Love" to "Separation." In "Encounter" the gloves meet straight on, the fingers entwined as if holding hands. They embrace in "Love," one protectively or erotically lying atop the other. In "Separation" they turn away from one another, curled up (as in pain) and unraveling.

In "Equilibrium," 35 small photographs of body parts are suspended parallel to the ceiling, above the viewer's head. Interspersed among the photographs are mirrors of the same size. As the viewer walks under the piece, images of body parts combine with images of the viewer's own body as it is reflected in the mirrors. Messager likes the awkwardness of the piece, the fact that one must strain to view the work, and the somewhat macabre and grotesque combination of self and other.

Messager has exhibited extensively in Europe since the mid-1970s and more recently has caught the attention of an American audience. A retrospective of her work, organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, traveled to those institutions and the Art Institute of Chicago in 1996.