Saturday, June 25, 2011

Innocence and the Nude: Two works at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam

The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam houses a collection of modern and contemporary art and design. For those in Toronto, I'd liken the collection to the Power Plant or the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art.

The Stedeljik is undergoing renovations so curators are presenting a selection of highlights called:  temporary stedelijik 2. There are a couple of works that I found appealing for their respective explorations of the nude female figure in art.

Marijke van Warmerdam's Handstand (1992) is a video installation that questions viewer perceptions of innocence. Here, an adolescent girl or a young woman does a handstand. The artist slows and loops the footage. On the surface, it's a playful moment. But as the viewer continues to watch the video loop the experience shifts from enjoying a whimsical moment to spying voyeuristically.

Helen Verhoeven's Thingly Character V (2010) was painted recently, and fits into the tradition of placing nude female figures amid dressed male figures in a salon/bar setting. Think Edouard Manet's Petit-dejeuner sur l'herbe. Thingly Character V is a large canvas and is intriguing for the several tableaus within the painting which explore and question the place of the nude figure in a seemingly out-of-context setting. This is interesting because Verhoeven, who was born in 1974, takes a artistic conceit and looks at it through the lens of a contemporary context.

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