The Salon, a show both sophisticated and chic, is sure to delight its observers and buyers. With paintings, furnishings, sculpture, books at a exceptionally refined level of quality, the exhibition is top tier. Works span centuries and cover multiple themes, yet they feel comfortably at home in this impressive show.
Could Oscar Wilde have had Jan Massys 15th Century painting in mind when he said, “I do not suffer fools, gladly”? The two jokers of Galerie De Jonckheere “les deu Fous petit” are clearly iconographic symbols of man’s folly. Not unlike Chaucerian characters, the surrealistically portrayed fools, however, seem to know more than they let on. They are well aware of their audience and, as such, put on a clever display of costume and fancy, interpretation and burlesque. The riddles of the rebus seem to now escape all but the medieval scholar.
Probably well acknowledged and understood in their time, the rebus seems to be particularly understood by the fools, who dare the observer to understand. As the critic’s description asserts, “while the fool on the left is lifting a wooden spoon to his mouth containing an indeterminate mixture, the other one is closing his lips with his index finger.” It is suggested that the fool who chooses not to speak represents silence, which was then (and, probably still is) associated with wisdom. Perhaps, that is the folly of this witty and brilliant painting, that it is we and not the fools, who suffer gladly, and that in their profound ignorance lies their supreme happiness.
At the other end of folly is fame. Galerie Marchilhac’s well preserved rug, “Tapis rectangulaire” by the the exemplary French rug designer Ivan Da Silva Bruhns is both bold and beautiful. Perhaps one of the most prolific of the French Art Deco rug designers, Da Silva Bruhns’ artistry exemplified the influence of linear composition prevalent during the streamlined Art Moderne period. Here, DSB’s inspiration is aligned and specifically drawn from Aztec and Pre-Columbian arts. With a poignant center medallion, the design resembles the plan of a maze, boldly symmetrical and focused. The rich reddish brown hues are those of the earth, with the yellows of the border symbolizing the sun. Signed by the master himself, this rug is truly a work of art.
Fernard Khnoff’s graphite and crayon work on paper “Etude pour le Sang de Meduse at the Barry Friedman Gallery, is both folly and fame. Executed at the turn of the century, with the waning of one century waxing into the next, Khnopff’s portrait expresses the duality and paradox of the zeitgeist. Not unlike Massys’ rebus work, the drawing is highly symbolic. Khnopff, a Belgium Symbolist, was interested in the surreal, an otherworldly representation of subjects both arcane and eerie. Death, perversion, mysticism, bestiality, and most prevalently androgyny were popular themes.
It is a fascination with the unknown, and how the imagination could capture the potential of uncertain times. Most captivating is the image of the androgyne, admixture of male and female. With roles undefined, like the times they represented, Knopff’s work illustrates that wondrous paradox. Male or female? It’s hard to tell. Like the head of Medusa, it’s power resides in the face mask. Is this then the power of this time, that it represents both the past and the present, both male and female, both sublime and ridiculous, both folly and fancy?
Far from folly is Galerie Zlotowski’s comprehensive and enlightening exhibit of the famed 20th Century architect Le Corbusier. The artist / architect’s 1920 work “Purist still life with guitar” is a fine execution. It’s perfect geometries and structure create a flowing composition of shape and context. Voids interact with volumes, dark with light, symmetry with imbalance. Ironic juxtapositions abound. And, yet, all is perfectly fitted to the form. Like the guitar it features, the drawing resembles a fluidity of musical harmonies.
So, too, is the Salon show, whose panoply of exhibits seem to create it’s own composition of balance and order throughout.