Michel Guerrin, Au Jeu de Paume, une histoire en raccourci de la photographie (Le Monde, September 30)
Didier Gualeni, L'ombre du temps au Jeu de Paume (Photosapiens)
When Marie Laurencin, Guillaume Apollinaire's fiancée, complained of having been painted as too fat by the Douanier Rousseau, she received this response: "Apollinaire is a great poet, he needs a fat muse." At the Jeu de paume, devoted to photography since this summer, it's the same thing: the place is large, so it needs fat exhibits. "L'Ombre du temps," which opens the new season, thus set itself an ambitious goal: to tell the history of 20th-century photography by exploring "the medium's experimentation and poetic and exploratory uses." The result is an exhibit rich in the number and quality of artists displayed; it gives you the feeling of being all-inclusive, of a supermarket shelf, that the learned explanations attached to the walls do not manage to dispel. But the selection is as careful as it was easy, and wandering from room to room allows you to contemplate with pleasure some sure things.The reviewer mentions a group of 235 anonymous snapshots, collected by the Belgian photographer Guillaume Bijl ("to desacralize photography"). After that opening, you get to "the heavyweights," Cartier-Bresson (see my post on August 7), Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and "especially the divine Atget," in whose photographs "emptiness as well as the precision of details is fascinating: rabbit skins, deformed books, cloth sacks full of who knows what, stones that hold back things, piles of stuff, porcelain sinks, leaning chimneys." (See my previous posts on Atget, from January 2, 2004, October 16, 2003, and August 21, 2003.)
Then there is "Thomas Ruff and his industrial machinery caught like beasts of burden," Valérie Jouve, and a film by Isodore Isou. Also in the exhibit are works by Alexander Rodchenko (like the portrait of the poet Mayakovski), the "abstract, twisted, and hypnotic images of Moholy-Nagy," the "more than dead still lifes of Wols," Cindy Sherman, the transformed clouds of Roni Horn (also Still Water, from 1997/99), the avant-garde disguises (cross-dressing) of Claude Cahun, and Nan Goldin's The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. There is only one image on the museum's pathetic Web site, but you can see some of the exhibit's photographs here and here.