July 21st, 2022
Marlene Dumas open-end
March 27th, 2022 – January 8th, 2023
Open every day except on Tuesdays, from 10 am to 7 pm
Among a number of Marlene’s paintings collected by François Pinault, she was never pleased with a solo show at Palazzo Grassi in Venice.
As a celebrated woman artist, she took care personally of the selection to display and the set-up, which unfolds a variety of subjects expressed in 104 canvases.
The quietness and the grandeur of the 18th-century palace created the perfect mood for Marlene’s journey through the joys and sorrows of the human condition.
As we walk along the initial rooms, the small paintings and drawings explore the multiple facets of love and desire with intimacy, passion, and deep understanding, although her works do not merely originate from her emotional experience.
Once her deep feelings are transferred on a canvas, the images recall masterpieces of sculpture or painting, as we can see in “Homage to Michelangelo” based on the unfinished “Pietà Rondanini”, or “Red moon” which refers to Ophelia, the tragic female character in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
No matter what age or gender the artists belong, Dumas needs to interact with great masters, enlarge her gaze and offer more images to visitors.
In her world there’s no room for landscapes or urban sights, the human nature is so intriguing and worth exploring with candor and technical mastery.
What being a woman means for Marlene? Born in South Africa in 1953, she is a white woman of Afrikaans descent who studied at the University of Cape Town in the 1970s before moving to Amsterdam.
Most early works express her opposition against racism and the supremacy of white social control over people classified according to their race or political status.
Other paintings exemplify the stereotypes developed by the ‘male gaze’ about prostitutes, exotic dancers, strippers, and porn actresses who are often exploited and despised by society.
These portraits are shown in the same room along with a series of tall and narrow canvases entitled “Magdalena”: her body emerges from a dark brown background, with wide-open eyes staring at the viewer.
Dumas explained that they don’t necessarily refer to the biblical character since Magdalene is the symbol of a ‘fallen woman’, who managed to fight for her redemption.
Among the tropes about the female condition, time and vanity are dealt with bluntness.
“Nefertiti”, “Venus and Adonis”, icons of universal beauty, are paired with “Blue Marilyn”, “Dead Marilyn” and some self-portraits when drunk, depicted with humor and irony.
Besides celebrities, Marlene cares for her family, who regularly are part of the compositions. She is a mother with grandchildren who are represented at various ages, standing before the viewer with dignity and pride.
“Being young is about all the first times”, a statement by Dumas about the skills of children tested by life every day.
The close-up pictures of Helena, Marlene’s daughter, her son Eden and the artist’s brother Peter as a child convey their strong identity supported by pure vital energy against our indifference.
Moreover, the artist introduces us to her cultural heroes from the 19th and 20th centuries with drawings on paper focused on “Great Men” who despite their contribution to the world culture, were persecuted for their sexuality or unconventional ideas.
Pierpaolo Pasolini, Oscar Wilde, Charles Baudelaire, Jean Jenet, and many others appear on the white walls like a gallery of Modern age icons.
We suggest you conclude your visit with three large canvases about “The origin of painting” and “The making of” that showcase Dumas’s talent as an artist and sensitivity shared so lavishly in this remarkable exhibition.