Contemporary French photographer Jean-Paul Goude, whose humourous and striking images have been part of Paris’ urban landscape for the last decade, has been honoured with his first retrospective in Paris -- Goudemalion -- showing at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs until 18 March 2012.
An artist who defies classification, Goude has worked
in music, fashion, advertising and performing arts, and this diverse
exhibition features a plethora of multi-media works -- drawings,
sculptures, installations, films and of course photos -- spanning the last 40
years of the image-maker’s career.
Goude’s billboard campaign for the department store Galeries Lafayette, featuring
vibrant and cheeky shots of Laetitia Casta or Iggy
Pop, has been gracing the Paris metros since the turn of the 21st Century.
But he played a lead role in contemporary Parisian folklore before that too. In
1989 he worked on the celebration to mark the bicentenary of the French
Revolution. Goude created a fantastical scene, sending a steam train down the
Champs Elysées, surrounded by a parade of people
from around the world dressed in bold and bright costumes -- a colourful and
multicultural celebration of contemporary France. The magic of the parade is
reconstructed at Goudemalion, with a replica of the train as the centrepiece of
the exhibition, encircled by sketches, photos and video screens detailing the
The title of the show, Goudemalion, refers to the myth
of Pygmalion, the king who sculpted a statue that was then bought to life, and
whom he proceeded to marry. In many of his pieces, Goude depicts a woman who is
already full of life, but rather than turning her to stone, he enlivens her
through his dynamic and zesty art. The artist displays his own subversive view
of femininity by exaggerating and highlighting certain parts of the anatomy.
For instance, his muse Grace Jones -- who is featured in many mediums
throughout the exhibition - has a masculine, strong beauty that was seen by
many as a somewhat grotesque figure until Goudemalion worked his magic in the 1970s.
In Goude’s images of Jones, we see strong, sensual lines -- her straight neck
being emphasised in one photo -- celebrating the power and difference of this
pop music icon.
Goudemalion is a fun, dynamic and varied exhibition
that explores the multi-media work of a charismatic artist who has played a key
role in contemporary culture, both in Paris and further afield.
Kim Laidlaw Adrey is the Paris Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes unlockparis.blogspot.com.