In regard to the occurrence of visual anthropology and other civilisational histories, the enigmatic work and personality of Jose Maria Sert comes into view as particularly inventive and eccentric.
One of the very early artists to practice a cosmopolitan ethos at the beginning of the 20th century, Jose Maria Sert, born 1874 in Barcelona, moved to Paris as early as 1899, married the Russian “collector of geniuses” and pianist Misia Godebska a.k.a. Misia Sert, and was commissioned for monumental works in New York (Rockefeller Center), Geneva (Palais des Nations), Vic (Cathedral), Paris (Ballet Russes), London, Buenos Aires, Venice, Madrid, Palm Beach etc… His anachronic oeuvres of majestic architectural paintings question notions of contemporaneity and historicity, art and decorative arts at the birth of Modernism. This shifting allegiance to the past and the present is particularly visible in his preparatory works. While dismissing photography as exclusively pragmatic, Sert is nevertheless a pioneer in this medium with the elaboration of human compositions of children, athletes and acrobats petrified in impossible choreography, which through the technique of “mise au carreau” were used as preparatory studies for his delirious paintings.
This exhibition insists on the objectification of the body, particularly the male body, sometimes black – replacing the discretionary white female subject – anticipating post-structuralist theories of representation. This depersonalisation of the body is further accentuated with the parallel use of “santons”, wire, textile and earth ware nativity figures, and wood mannequins.
The extraordinary collection of vintage argentic prints with artist’s annotations constitutes a unique immersion into studio practice and performative process.
This the second exhibition of Jose Maria Sert in Germany after the one presented at the Georg Kolbe Museum, Berlin in 1996. Recent exhibitions include the Petit Palais, Paris in 2013 and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge to travel to the Musée Bourdelle, Paris, both in 2015.