This exhibition at Jeu de Paume dedicated to Claude Cahun is the first one on such a scale to be held in France in sixteen years. It brings together major works and others that are lesser known or have rarely been exhibited.
Claude Cahun, born Lucy Renée Mathilde Schwob, reinvented herself through the medium of photography. Whether dressed as a man or as a woman, she posed for the lens with a palpable sense of performance. She took tremendous care in choosing poses and expressions as well as backgrounds and specific props such as masks, capes and overgarments. Having said that, the focus of her pictures always remained the face.
Photography was an essential part of Cahun’s life starting from the age of fifteen or sixteen. The corpus of works on display at Jeu de Paume spans five decades, from 1913 to 1954. Undoubtedly, it is her self-portraits that have aroused the greatest interest, as the artist used her own image to expose, one by one, the clichés of feminine and masculine identity. Unlike other artists who made portraits but rarely exposed themselves, Cahun was at once the object and the subject of her own artistic experiments, and the exhibition emphasises the innovative quality of these experiments.
When examining the work of Claude Cahun, her close relationship with her lover and companion, Suzanne Malherbe, must always be kept in mind. A number of works were the result of a collaboration between the two women.
The exhibition at Jeu De Paume, open until the 25th September 2011, features some 140 works as well as numerous documents. It is articulated around eight main themes including Metamorphoses of Identity and the Subversion of Gender, Poetry and Politics, Metaphors of Desire, and Elective Encounters.
For further information, visit: www.jeudepaume.org.