Friday, November 6, 2009

Denise Colomb

Part of the Hotel de Sully, a beautiful hotel particulier in the 4th, just off of rue St. Antoine, is an off-site for the Jeu de Paume. Tucked off to the side from the beautiful garden is a two-level space devoted to modern/contemporary exhibitions. It was my first visit actually, when I went to check out the photography exhibition of vintage photographs by Denise Colomb taken in the West Indies between the late 1940s-1960s. Colomb, a French photographer(1902-2004) was invited by poet and politician, Aime Cesaire to come to the West Indies for an "ethnographic mission" organized for the centenary of the abolition of slavery. The works are all in black and white except for a slide show at end of the show that shows some work transfered into color in the early 1960s. Colomb does not exoticize nor pity her subjects, but presents a fairly straight forward portrait of life for the citizens of Martinique and Guadeloupe, and the dispartity between the vestiges of colonialism and reality of living on a remote island. It was interesting to see the difference between an image in black and white and then in color. One of her later images captures a woman nude, sitting in the ocean. In b+w, the image is powerful for the isolation, the simplicity of her form and a sense of innocence in nature. In color, you see the skin tones of the bather set in the crystal clear blue waters and you cannot help but think of all the tourist posters splashed around town for cheap flights to the island. She is not a sexy, posing model at all, but she has been replaced by one in today's advertising world. This exhibition coincidentally falls almost a year after the strikes and violence that shook these very islands for a few months, which makes one wonder how developments have been made between the countries in the post-colonial world.

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