Thursday, September 23, 2010

Expo: The Lost Dogs' Orchestra - Barthélémy Toguo

Ever since I became involved in the saga of master painter and post-WWII expatriate Beauford Delaney, I have developed a heightened awareness and appreciation artists who happen to be from Africa or its Diaspora.  So you'll find that I may post frequently about art and / or artists on the Entrée to Black Paris™ blog.  There's a lot of noteworthy work being shown in Paris these days!

I had never heard of Barthélémy Toguo before a few weeks ago.  I saw an announcement about his current exposition – The Lost Dogs’ Orchestra – and was immediately intrigued by the images used to promote the show and the gallery where it was to be held.  A prestigious venue that is quite far from the “gallery district” of the Marais, the Galerie Lelong has a 23-year history of presenting the works of artists who are at the cutting edge of modern and contemporary art. 

Galerie Lelong – place de Narvik façade
© Discover Paris!

My husband Tom and I went to the Toguo vernissage (open house) last Thursday.  We arrived early so that we could look at his work without having to fight a crowd.  We had no idea what to expect, and found that this was a good thing!  The wide range of works – from aquarelles to photographs to collages to bronze statues (and more!) – was impressive.  Some of the works are whimsical, some soothing, and some disturbing.  The gallery’s one-page description of the show says that Toguo created a theater of sorts for this exhibit that allows the visitor to get a glimpse of his perception of the world.

Front room of gallery
© Discover Paris!

A plain, wooden coffin with hands holding globes protruding from its sides is the first thing that one sees upon entering the gallery space. The floor of the first room of the gallery is covered with flattened banana cartons from Côte d’Ivoire, Martinique, and Guadeloupe.

Plants in various states of health are placed around both rooms of the gallery. We learned that hundreds of lime green salamanders strategically placed on the walls of the large gallery space were part of a work of art. African brooms in one corner and a cauldron perched atop stones and coals comprised another.

Paintings and sculpture in back room of gallery
© Discover Paris!

African brooms and other works
© Discover Paris!

The more traditional works were no less fascinating.  I am partial to sculpture, and was intrigued to learn that the two bronzes on display were Toguo’s first attempts at working with this medium.  My favorite of the two (and of all the other paintings, photographs, etc. on display) was The Lover. Among the aquarelles, I particularly liked The Heavy Croix of the Bad Boy and Purification XXV.

The Lover
Barthélémy Toguo
2010; Bronze
© Discover Paris!

Several of Toguo's works present powerful political statements.  Two post-card collages, one from Auschwitz-Birkenau and one from Johannesburg, took my breath away.  During a trip to South Africa, Toguo distributed post cards, asked people to express thoughts, hopes, and dreams about their homeland, and then send the cards to him.  These cards form the collage.

Postcards from Head above Water - Johannesburg
© Discover Paris!

As for the Auschwitz-Birkenau collage, there was no one for Toguo to ask to send cards to him. So he took photos of the camps, stamped them so that they would look like post cards, and used these images for his collage. These works are but two of a series entitled Head above Water.  Other works from the series were realized as a result of trips that Toguo took to Kosovo, Hiroshima, Lagos… .

Three life-sized photos of Toguo posing as contemporary African rulers are entitled “Stupid African President.” Both the title of these works and the poses assumed by Toguo in them are a forceful indication of the artist’s sentiments about the state of the African world today.

Stupid African President triptych (2006)
Planet’s Destiny (2008)
© Discover Paris!

Barthélémy Toguo is from M'Balmayo, Cameroon.  He studied at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire; at the École Supérieure d'Arts in Grenoble; and at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, Germany. His previous solo expositions in Paris were held at the Palais de Tokyo (The Sick Opera) in 2004 and the Musée de l’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (Migrateurs) in 1999. Toguo lives and works between Bandjoun, Cameroon; New York; and Paris. He is currently represented by Galerie Lelong.

All Barthélémy Toguo artworks are copyrighted by the artist and Galerie Lelong Paris.
The Galerie Lelong exposition will run until October 9, 2010.

Galerie Lelong
13, rue de Téhéran
75008 Paris
Metro: Miromesnil


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Black Women in Europe said...

Salut Monique - merci pour le blog! These exhibits sound fantastic. Have to spoken with Mamie H?

I nominated you for a Sunshine Award:


About Beauford Delaney said...

Thanks so much for the nomination! Have not spoken with Mamie.