Review: Annette Messager, Marian Goodman Gallery ‘Provocative and Intelligent’

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Fluorescent uteruses with their fallopian tubes twisted and contorted to give the viewer the middle finger, Femen-inspired paintings of nuns stripped to the waist with ‘In Gays We Trust’ emblazoned across their breasts, ballerina pumps with ‘No God in my Vagina’ scrawled into the insole… I mean, how could I possibly resist??

Avec et sans raisons is Annette Messager’s first solo show at Marian Goodman Gallery, and it is her first one in London since her 2009 Hayward Gallery exhibition. And it is a welcome return for this French artist – now in her seventies – who remains as fearless and provocative as ever.

But as much as my heart skipped a beat with the swipes at the burka ban and policing of female behaviour during pregnancy, this isn’t militant art for the sake of it – this is an interesting and thought-provoking collection.

Take Memoire Robots, 2015, for example. Here, ‘memoire’ and ‘robots’ are written in thick black netting and softly coloured letters on the wall, their intersection provoking a consideration of the convergence of man and machine. In a world of artificial intelligence, will the two become one and the same? (Something that Yuval Noah Harari also considers, btw, in Homo Deus).  

There’s also the dark but monumental installation, Daily, 2016, where everyday items such as combs and headphones are reproduced on a vast scale and hung from the ceiling amongst sculptural takes on dismembered limbs and rats. It feels like you’re walking through some nightmarish Lilliput, where the world is inverted both in scale and emotion.

But there’s also playfulness on show too. Exhibited here for the first time, Tututerus, 2017, sees Annette take one of her pink uterus sculptures, dress it up in a black frilly tutu, and hang it above a fan to make it sing and dance in an ever-perpetual motion.

It is a real joy when an art show you’ve been looking forward to lives up to expectations, and this one from Annette Messager did not let me down. It’s bold, fearless work. A provocative, unapologetic and intelligent exhibition.

Marian Goodman Gallery, London, to May 27, 2017

Admission free.

All installation images by me. See more in my Facebook album.

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