Almine Rech Gallery, one of Paris’s foremost galleries, opened its first New York location more than a year ago on the Upper East Side, bringing with it a unique program that mixes a strong artist roster with a consistently adventurous curatorial project. For its most recent venture, the gallery has brought together key figures from the canon of 20th century Western art for Words Without Thoughts Never to Heaven Go. Adapting its title from a line in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the exhibition investigates ways artists use text as an allegorical element. Serving as a chronological and thematic starting point to the exhibition is Être ou ne pas être, Picasso’s 1912 painting considered as one of the foremost examples of appropriation of text in modern painting. Declaring “to be or not be” in French with gouache on paper, Picasso not only pays homage to one of the most emblematic texts ever written, but he also questions the mimetic essence of a painting. Can a painting of words serve to depict an image?
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Francis Bacon, image via National Galleries
b. 1909 in Dublin, died 1992 in Madrid
Bacon was considered a modern artist but did not belong to any particular art movement. He developed his own style of work, often creating scenes involving violence or sexuality.
Bacon is an Irish born painter, who is best known for his nightmarish, grotesque imagery. He lived a tumulus life, constantly moving, being shuffled around to relatives, a strained relationship with his father, menial jobs, and a severe case of asthma and a violent allergy to dogs and horses. He was never formally trained or attended any art schools.
His medical conditions caused him to purchase a medical book on the subject matter diseases of the mouth, which contained images that would haunt him for the rest of his life. Bacon noted that the 1925 silent film The Battleship Potemkin, was highly influential on his work.
His first show was in 1929, which exhibited his rugs and furniture he had created while working as an interior designer. His later works were an abstraction of the human form.
Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944) via Tate Collection
Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944) would be the first forerunner of Bacon’s works that would take the triptych format. Three panels placed behind heavily gilded frames, an open mouth a reference to the The Battleship Potemkin, and the use of distortion.
Study After Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent image via Art Quotes
Bacon also became interested in Diego Velasquez’s work, particularly, his Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1650. Bacon painted a series of Popes, however his version the Pope was more gruesome and nightmarish.
Triptych (1972) via Tate Collection
Bacon destroyed his previous works he did not deem worthy, many ending up with slashed canvases. His relationship with Eastender George Dyer influenced his Triptych (1973), which documents Dyer’s suicide, and would continue to be a theme for his works for the rest of his life.
Bacon died of a heart attack April 28, 1992 while in Madrid, Spain.