Local artist skyrocketing to fame

. June 6, 2012.

In my May 24, 2010 ArtBeat column, titled “Genius Among Us,”  I wrote it was only a matter of time before Detroit artist Cristin Richard would be a star in Paris, London, Tokyo and Shanghai. It’s less than a year later, and Ms. Richard is in Paris as we speak. She’s setting up her show, Domesticate Me, which is opening April 2 at the hottest gallery in the City of Light: La Découpe. La Découpe is an international, interdisciplinary, experimental, evolving platform for the arts. The founders, Magali Magistry and Kenza Amrouk, don’t merely exhibit art, they host ongoing encounters—what we used to call “happenings”—collaborations among artists of various media: not just sculptors and painters, but chefs, composers, designers and screenwriters. It’s wild, I tell you! Ms. Richard is in her Paris apartment (sponsored by her gallery’s owners) busily putting together the sculptures about to make her world famous. For a biography and review of Ms. Richard’s unique “mummification” techniques—using pig gut to create exotic, ethereal realizations of women’s fashion—check out my 2010 column on her at ecurrent.com and visit her website at cristinrichard.com.

The show at La Découpe is centered on a wedding dress, but for a change the artist is also “mummifying” typical household objects (including a tea set and an old-style rotary phone) using her trademark technique of wrapping the item in soaked pig intestines, letting them dry, cutting a slit to remove the “carcass,” then patching the slit with more soaked gut. If that’s not enough, Richard is simultaneously having some of her work on display at the art-based boutique hotel Hôtel Particulier Montmartre. In the heart of historic Montmartre, tucked into a secret grotto, “le passage du rocher de la sorcière,” (“the witches’ rock passage”), this charming, stately former mansion hosts avant-garde artistic installations and presentations, including not long ago, the naughtiest, funniest performance artist on earth, Sarah Trouche. And now, of course, Cristin Richard. Bon chance, Cristin. And stay gold!

Living larger at the TMA

Closer to home and more than worth the seventy-five minute drive is the amazing Toledo Museum of Art. Now through June 12 the TMA is hosting the final stop and only Midwest venue of “The Baroque World of Fernando Botero.” The 79-year-old Botero was born in Medellin, Columbia, son of a salesman who travelled by horseback and died when young Fernando was four. After attending a school for matadors for two years, Botero published his first set of illustrations and had his first exhibition at 16. At 20 he moved to Spain and the following year to Paris, which has been his primary residence ever since. His artistic output has been prodigious, and is called baroque, not so much because of the influence on him of the 17th-century colonial churches he saw in his youth or the paintings he studied in Europe’s museums, but because there is very generally an emotionality and message to his work. 

His style is immediately recognizable, and characterized by proportionally exaggerated or “fat” figures, as he refers to them. I think of his style as conveying a certain pneumatic voluptuousness, even sphericality, just as Picasso expresses angularity. Although Botero’s work is likable and easily accessible even to middlebrows like me, I was first smitten by him in Paris in 1993 when I ran across a stretch of his gigantic bronze sculptures extending the entire length of the Champs-Élysées. To use an expression from my youth, it was “mind-blowing.”  In 1994 I caught his show at the Maillol Museum. It was devoted to his depictions of the horror being perpetrated by the drug cartel in his native Medellin—kidnappings, murder, torture, even the death of Pablo Escobar. Very moving and shocking, too, because it was in Botero’s big, colorful style. A mix of violence and beauty.  I guess that’s why they call it baroque. 

Admission to the TMA is  free, but there is a small fee for this remarkable exhibition. 419.255.8000, or www.toledomuseum.org

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