Art & Culture

Published on November 1st, 2015 | by Pascal Ordonneau

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Germaine Krull at the Jeu de Paume Museum

An exciting exhibition for the remarkable artist and the challenges she presents and the stakes she raises.

We will not recount the eventful life of Germaine Krull, except to indicate that she is highly engaged in an extreme and intense political life, and she has a passion for communication and different media.

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Germaine Krull, Autoportrait, 1927, Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München. Photo by CultureBox.FranceTVinfo

More than any other photographer of the interwar period , Germaine Krull embodies both the search for the “View” and the obsession with “Say”. By chance, I had just finished Le Corbusier’s book, Architecture, which expresses his fascination for machines, airplanes, automobiles, large cruise ships, grain silos, etc. And throughout this beautiful exhibition, I found the same passion, in another order of mind.

It is true that the time led to the machine even more than before the First World War. When Germaine Krull published her first pictures “machinists” and her photos of “scrap,” the “electricity fairy” would soon be painted, the Italian Futurists would have already “hit”, and the German Bauhaus would debate and tear on what should make the art and which from what!

Germaine Krull is part of this whole cohort of artists in all fields of art, including that which is not yet recognized. As such, photography overthrew the columns of an ancient temple and started asking those of the new. An index, the sight of the Eiffel Tower for a modern among modern, R. Delaunay remains an object placed in front of the artist, like a stone tower that is imposes itself… except that it is made of iron and that, when viewed well, unlike all other towers, watches it cross!!! The Eiffel Tower that will propose Germaine Krull from the 20s to illustrate a book on Paris, is at the antipodes of some beautiful modern object, a sculpture rather than this “machine” that could have been said for Le Corbusier. The Eiffel Tower is understood from her womb, the inside offers her the photographer. You can access this “machine” by photographing the majesty of its workings. And show an Eiffel Tower, where thousands of beams of intersecting forces weave a network. It is no longer seen as the tool to conquer the sky, the first gigantic construction since the pyramids, but as an incredibly clever combination of metal parts whose beauty is both an economic means and the need for their interlacing.

These photos will not find themselves in a “book of photos, for photo, affirmed as work of art,” but in books intended to present Paris as later American photographers crisscross the United States, to show wealth, distress, and diversity for public research, knowledge, and information.

Information : This is where the work of Germaine Krull hits hard. Shown otherwise, the Eiffel Tower, for example, tells the work which, in it, is at work. Show what is not seen. Because it is not to see. Thus, grain elevators and processors and mills of Pont à Mousson. It is not beautiful? So we should not show it? So Germaine Krull shows what is not shown because it is precisely for these machines, these tools are like the Eiffel Tower, the modern movement, to the new company, which will be safe behind the new columns of the new temple.

Show also these things not seen because it is not far to walk on them, because it’s insignificant. Disorderly flea market stalls, storage dragging in the streets, the destitute of fortified areas, sheet metal huts and paintings. Show because Paris is as much due to the light of its monuments as a dark world, gray and dilapidated.

Germaine Krull renews a kind of document and gives elegance, power and attraction to insignificant objects that become more objects to show like the apples, which generations of painters had for their favorite dish and their ideal subject, motionless apples, round, red as necessary, insignificant as a dreamed model!

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“Rue Auber à Paris”, circa 1928, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection, Gift of David H. McAlpin by exchange © Estate Germaine Krull, Museum Folkwang, Essen. Photo by CultureBox.FranceTVinfo.

She sees everything and from every angle. To show, to tell good, to build and to teach books that strike. The printing of the clock or the Rue Auber are seen as dramatic scenery, set bold scenes with an impeccable layout. She sees objects and landscapes as she sees men and women. Her portraits of Malraux and Cocteau have become icons. As more or less daring, like undressed mannequins placed in a storefront.

Freedom to see and choose what to see. Freedom of the way to see, bold frames, but also transparencies or overlays, Germaine Skull walks on the edge of surrealism, she sometimes tends toward Suprematism, she is not far from the film scene setting, but always and without stopping, she is to cherish albums, books, create photo stories, to show others, accompany a text, illustrate a story.

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Photo by SortiraParis.

When at that time, some commentators explained that photography revolutionized art by the idea of multiplicity, Germaine Krull had multiple hearts in the business. For her, a good photo was a book that sells well, a newspaper or a magazine distributed in thousands of copies. It is the look of others that we shape, to whom we show not only what was previously invisible, but also, when it is visible, how by a new view, you can change the subject, the person, and the buildings.

Heading photo credit: Valérie Jouve


About the Author

40 ans de banque chez plusieurs établissements français et anglo-saxons ; il est l’auteur de plusieurs livres sur l’économie et la banque, d’un livre de voyage, d’un roman et d’un livre sur l’Allemagne. Il écrit pour les journaux et la radio, dont les Echos, le Figaro, Huffington Post, Radio France International.



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