Yayoï Kusama - Sarah Lucas - Ana Mendieta - Chloe Piene - Nancy Spero - Nicola Tyson: Esprit

17 January - 10 March 2004 Cloître Saint-Merri I & II - Paris

Galerie Nathalie Obadia is pleased to present the group exhibition "Esprit".
We wanted to associate some of the artists we work with (Chloe Piene, Ana Mandieta, Nicola Tyson) with others whose creative spirit we particularly appreciate such as Yayoï Kusama, Sarah Lucas and Nancy Spero.
Many exhibitions have already been held on the subject of women artists, too many in fact, one might say, but we wanted to show at the gallery, in the new space that lends itself well to thematic exhibitions, artists of different generations, cultures and sensibilities who have in common a great concern for freedom of expression, especially in the face of critics who like to link currents and schools.
These artists all have a creative will oscillating between rage and humor and which, plastically, comes from a great spirit of freedom facing the aesthetic codes in force.
Another paradoxical approach is that of their individualism, they do not claim to belong to any school, any specific current, but their message is that of universality.
Beyond the feminine aspect and claim which can appear in certain works, none of these artists has exclusively centered its work on this simple aspect. It is obvious that Nancy Spero speaks of politics and human rights, Yayoi Kusama of existential anguish, Sarah Lucas of consumer society, Ana Mendieta of Afro-American culture and the suffering engendered by Nicola Tyson and Chloe Piene are close to the pain painted by Bacon, who only spoke of the Being and its malaise.
The exhibition will include a set of works by each of the artists and will try to show that the spirit of creative freedom escaping the established codes has allowed the birth of very disturbing works both in the subject and in the realization. As if the fact of being decomplexed to act in a domain highly reserved to men, was an energetic engine and source of originality. As if they escaped aesthetic diktats, the "logical" evolution of the History of Art, and ultimately a certain politically correct trend in art.

Yayoï Kusama was born in 1929 in Japan. She is undoubtedly the most famous Japanese artist in the West, the first to have given a contemporary dimension to Japanese art.
Her work is both autobiographical (the phobia of the male sex which becomes an obsessive object and an instrument of all the most humorous detour) but it is also the quest for a place in a society of excessive consumption, perpetual and daily rape and which becomes a prison. It is the history of our society and that of Japan for 40 years and which Kusama tries to escape by a "infantilism" of facade. Kusama has exhibited all over the world, and in the last ten years there has been a great revival of interest in her work. The Japan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale was dedicated to him in 1993.


Sarah Lucas was born in 1962 in England, she is with Damien Hirst, the artist who best symbolizes the smashing return of the English artistic scene with the YBA (Young British Artists). At the same time, she symbolizes the "Bad Girl" side, beyond the vulgarity that can be seen in the English comedies of Ken Loach. But Sarah Lucas, it is also a nose at the English society divided between the preserved and decadent rich and the degraded middle and working classes. The triumph that she shows so well through her sculptures and photographs is that of an emancipated freedom, more than that of the woman, that of the human being who can thus express himself without the rules of politeness and thus of good taste. The title of the works is already a universe "Hysterical Attack", "One Armed Bandits".

Ana Mendieta was born in 1948 in Cuba and died in 1985 in New York in obscure conditions, falling from the balcony of her building after a quarrel with her husband, the artist Carl Andre. Ana Mendieta came from a bourgeois Cuban family that sent her two daughters to study in the United States. It was there that she immersed herself in her roots, which were both African and therefore close to animism, and Spanish, which were close to an exacerbated Christianity, as it is in Mexico. Mendieta has mixed these cultural links with a very original approach to nature which becomes the essential support of her works. Ana Mendieta is the main subject of her work without being the exhibitionism of Sarah Lucas. As such she is with Gina Pane, at the origin of Body Art that she associates with Land Art. In certain "actions" or "performances", there is a great tension, often close to the violence and which tends to the sorcery close to the animal culture. Fire, blood, earth are instruments that serve to create, they refer to the original source of our humanity.


Chloe Piene born in 1972 in the United States of a German father. Chloe Piene has been noticed for the last two years with very disturbing videos in which she mostly stages herself transformed into a feline, locked in a cage and roaring very violent phrases (You're Gonna Be My Woman, 1998). We are completely in the realm of emotion, the drawings of the artist are very beautiful, close to the world of Egon Schiele. The Kunsthalle Bern will devote a major exhibition to Chloe Piene in January 2004 and will be present at the next Whitney Biennial in March.


Nancy Spero was born in 1926 in America and lived in the 1950s with her husband, the artist Leon Golub. Nancy Spero is a reference in the art engaged "it is one of the first women artists in the United States. Through painting and drawing, she was able to speak of the condition of women in the 1950s, but also and above all of the condition of Man, the political yoke, the death penalty. With her large friezes which are not without reminding the Greek and Egyptian art, she takes all the myths of the philosophy born in Greece. There is in Spero, a will of elegance, of lightness even in the support to tell the human suffering. The silhouettes, the colors used make us think of ancient, classical works as if the suffering were past, but on closer inspection, we see that these are contemporary stories. On the same frieze, women who seem to come from another century cohabit with American pop pin-ups.

Nicola Tyson was born in England in 1960 and now lives near New York.
In this exhibition, Nicola Tyson is the one who claims her place as a painter. For more than ten years, she has been pursuing a very personal work which, like that of Bacon, also English and solitary, speaks of the suffering of the human body to find its place and to express itself. For a long time, Tyson painted and drew others who only reflected a discomfort to move in the current world but for the last 3 years; she only paints herself and hers (her family) and the last portraits are very violent in the compositions as well as in the shrill colors. Beyond her loved ones and herself, Tyson, unlike Sarah Lucas, does not have a triumphant vision of the freedom she has conquered but rather an introverted and tragic look.