Curated by Eleanor Nairne, “Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty” harmoniously compliments the site of the Barbican Gallery, in London. Brutalist architecture and Dubuffet’s Art Brut go hand in hand, creating a world of materiality and delight for the audience to enjoy.
”Jean Dubuffet: Brutal Beauty”, installation view at the Barbican Art Gallery, May 17–August 22, 2021
© Tristan Fewings / Getty Images `
After three lockdowns in the UK, museums are finally open again, and an exhibition of Dubuffet (1901-85) is attuned to our sensibilities, with the artist’s “aim for an art that is directly plugged into our current life”. Tired of being separated at home in our zoom cells, this assault on material and its tangibility is so exciting and invigorating to situate ourselves in. Capturing the lifetime of an artist whose oeuvre spans 40 years, the Barbican Gallery has put together a colossal selection of 150 works, thoughtfully laid out in 15 themed rooms.
With so much of Dubuffet’s career to revel in, I was especially drawn to his Female Bodies and Landscape paintings, which play fleshy tricks on the eye. In the Female Bodies series, started in April 1950, he opposed the classical tradition of the female nude. Creating instead a fleshy flattening of form, like a body flayed, leaving behind only the skin in his painted works. Mixing a thick paste from zinc oxide and viscous varnish, using a putty knife to apply it to the canvas, he crafted, what he called, “textures calling to mind human…
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