Carlier | Gebauer

Pierre Klossowski

10 Jan - 21 Feb 2009

Pierre Klossowski
Ganymède - Mont Albins 1985
dessin aux crayons de couleur
200 x 150 cm
Paris - Berlin: Galerie Natalie Seroussi: Pierre Klossowski
10.01. - 21.02.2009

As part of the gallery exchange between Berlin and Paris initiated by the French Embassy, carlier | gebauer, in cooperation with the Galerie Natalie Seroussi from Paris, is showing a series of nine large-format drawings by Parisian litterateur, translator and draughtsman Pierre Klossowski (1905–2001, Paris). Even today Klossowski, who is firmly enshrined within the literary and art historical canon in France, is still not as well known in Germany as, for example, his younger brother, the painter Balthus. Klossowski’s oeuvre was not presented to the general public in Germany until the comprehensive solo exhibition held in Cologne’s Museum Ludwig in 2007.

This is the case even though Klossowski’s works are an important point of reference within Modernism’s artistic self-critique, whether one thinks of his translation of Walter Benjamin’s famous artwork essay, or his collaborations with Georges Bataille, Gilles Deleuze or Michel Foucault. For that reason too we are delighted to be able to present Klossowski’s works in conjunction with the Galerie Natalie Seroussi. They constitute a historical position that is also a lodestone for many of the artists represented by carlier | gebauer. The drawings created by Klossowski since the 1950s are searching for an artistic position that generates a new combination of seemingly unconnected historical citations in order to glean a perspective beyond that of a historically ambivalent Modernism.

Pierre Klossowski was born in 1905 and could well be said to been imbued with Modernism’s artistic tradition ever since he first drew breath. His father was an art historian specialising in the 19th century, whilst his mother had been taught painting by Pierre Bonnard and was close to Rainer Maria Rilke. Klossowski himself began to work as secretary to André Gide at an early age. He did, however, not begin to draw and exhibit until 1955. Writing was always to the fore for him. His first published drawings developed from his novel “Roberte, ce soir” (1955), for which he was seeking illustrations. “My drawings existed in my mind before I began to describe them in my novels”, Klossowski once said and here described a crucial aspect, which also made him so vitally important for the subsequent generation of artists. In his drawings, as in his writing, he seeks out moments of drastic expression. It is not the artistic medium itself that is foregrounded in Klossowski’s work, but its potential as a channel to express extremes. André Masson argued that Klossowski’s drawings were not illustrations but rather prolongations of his narratives. It is precisely this linguistic character of art that was already beginning to emerge in Klossowski’s “Nu au rat” (1956) and that attains such drastic force precisely by readdressing historical motifs.

Klossowski described his drawings as “grandes machines”. They appear to follow in the wake of what Roland Barthes dubbed “citable life”, composed as they are virtually entirely of references, classical themes from painting, motifs from Antiquity and the realms in which these overlap with secular figures from folklore and the Renaissance world arranged according to a perspective adopted from medieval manuscript illumination. However, as can be seen throughout the works we are showing from four decades, the topic of sexualised violence constantly jostles its way to the fore: be it the male incursion upon the female body, or, as in the four works on display from the “Saint Nicolas” series, attacks on a body of the same gender. However, in Klossowski’s drawings those who are attacked never lose their independence. In Klossowski’s works they turn from victims rendered passive to active figures taking action, transformed into protagonists in a mystery play of erotic desire.

The exhibition at carlier | gebauer brings together nine large-format coloured drawings from four decades. The early drawing „Le Nut au Rat“ of 1959, is exemplary for Klossowski’s „Gulliver-Optics“. In it, the female body is introduced as a reappearance of ancient figuration in a renewed context. The recto-verso drawing “Les Désespérés du Directoire” and “Esquisse pour le petit Rose” from 1964 and 1974 portray the sexually ambivalent development from the figure of a child playing, which is portrayed on the front of the sheet, to a hermaphrodite on the back of the drawing, beautiful and ethereal in equal measure, a figure kept and at the same time desired by the omnipresent mentor. In contrast, the four-part “St. Nicolas” series from the 1980s, which follows the journey of two young boys in a series of dramatic images, displays greater clarity in bodily terms, as does Klossowski’s emblematic 1985 drawing “Ganymède – Mont Albins”, whose central, clearly delineated figures seem to come from some pre-Raphaelite, pacified alternative universe. Klossowski’s drawings shape bodies and disintegrate them at the same time. All the examples shown at carlier | gebauer trace the steps of an exploration that tirelessly created an intertwining of literature and the fine arts over half a century and in this very endeavour found an autonomous and disorientating form of expression.

Tags: Balthus, Pierre Bonnard, Pierre Klossowski, André Masson, Rainer Fetting