Pierre Molinier’s unorthodox and surreal exposures at the Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

By on August 27, 2015

We’ve just been reading about a new solo exhibition based around the career and unorthodox life of French Surrealist artist Pierre Molinier (1900-1976) at the Richard Saltoun Gallery, a London-based gallery specializing in post-war art with a particular interest and emphasis on conceptual, feminist and performance artists that emerged during the 1970s. The Gallery describes Molinier this way: “Existing on the margins of conventional society, he lived a life defined by excess and hedonism.” As you might expect, the photos and video are slightly NSFW.

Eperon d’amour, 1960 b

Eperon d’amour,1960

Born in Agen, France, in 1900, Pierre Molinier started his career as a house painter. In his twenties he moved with his family to the city of Bordeaux, where he joined a secret esoteric society. A fervent promoter of the arts and of the ‘Salons’, in the 50s he abandoned his job in order to dedicate himself exclusively to his art. Molinier produced Surrealist paintings as well hundreds of photographs, that have been inspirational for the generations of performance and body-based artists (such as Robert Mapplethorpe and Cindy Sherman) that followed.

Here’s an overview on Pierre Molinier from the Richard Saltoun Gallery:

“Pierre Moliner – the man and the painter, the genius and the pervert, the ‘lesbienne’ and the guns lover – is not an easy figure to pin down. Existing on the margins of conventional society, he lived a life defined by excess and hedonism.

At the age of 50 he raised his ‘premature tomb’, reading on its cross: ‘Here lies Pierre Molinier – born on 13 April 1900 – died around 1950 – He was a man without morals – He didn’t give a fuck of glory and honour – Useless to pray for him.’

This exhibition presents a selection of more than 50 of his groundbreaking photographs, drawings and paintings, dating from 1952 onwards. It was at this time that Molinier moved towards a more ‘magical’ style of art, a style that sought to bring to the surface unconscious desires and erotic drives and subsequently captured the attention of André Bréton, the founder of Surrealism.

Breton became an avid supporter of his work and organised Molinier’s first exhibition L’Étoile Scellée, in 1956, which established his reputation. Molinier’s fascination with the body and the erotic manifested itself through his carefully staged photographic portraits and self-portraits. Whilst his paintings and drawings depicted female characters in vertiginous, dark backgrounds, in his photographs he adopted a more joyful approach, reshaping his and his model’s appearances through doll’s masks, clothing, accessories, and S&M paraphernalia. Cross-dressing was, for Molinier, the preferred method of reshaping his own appearance, and this exhibition will present a collection of these self-portraits.

Molinier’s creative process was both strict and experimental: he would mix color pigments with his sperm; he only used as models the people whom he loved; he would fellate himself whilst releasing the camera’s shutter; he would have sex with the dolls he was using for his shootings; hand-sew and alter female undergarments to fit his body; alter photographs by manually manipulating the negatives using his body parts.”

(more at the link)

Skin d’Amourdo, 1960.

Skin d’Amourdo,1960

In the UK’s Guardian yesterday, Adrian Searle wrote:

The photographs reveal things as though through a keyhole, spotlit vignettes rearing up from a forbidden world. They are small, black-and-white, home-developed silver gelatin prints, and they glower round the walls, not so much inviting as inciting you to look. This small show at Richard Saltoun in London’s Fitzrovia is the first UK exhibition of Pierre Molinier’s work for over 20 years.

Molinier, born in 1900, makes the spectator feel like a voyeur. But he wants us to witness what he himself wanted to see: these are episodes from a life in private, revealed to the world. His photographs have the repetitiveness of obsession and pornography. The same old things, again and again, the same focus, the same rooms, the same furniture and paraphernalia.

And Molinier himself, again and again. These are more than selfies. He shows too much of himself, nevertheless. A man with a rose in his arse, corseted, masked, veiled, bewigged, high-heeled, impaled, laughing, giving us his rictus grin. Here’s his stockinged legs, bound at the ankles. Here’s his bum. Here it is again. There’s that stool, the chair, the out-of-focus wallpaper. It looks like nothing has changed here in decades.

Although many of the photographs date from the 1960s and 70s, they seem to come from an earlier age. There’s something musty and cloistered about them. They show a man alone, a man with mannequins, performing for himself and for the camera – and an invisible audience who might not be there at all.

Everything happens in an apartment at 7 Rue de Faussets in Bordeaux. Here, Molinier acted out his fantasy life and death before the camera. In 1950 he photographed himself as a lain-out corpse, and concocted a shot of his own imaginary grave. “He was a man without morals,” he wrote on the cross embedded in the earth.

Finally, in 1976, he committed suicide.

Read more here.

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All images: courtesy the artist’s estate/Richard Saltoun

Je rampe vers Gehamman, planche 25 du Chaman, 1965

Je rampe vers Gehamman, planche 25 du Chaman,1965

The solo exhibition opened on August 20th and closes on October 2, 2015.

Richard Saltoun Gallery
111 Great Titchfield Street
London W1W 6RY, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7637 1225
Email: info@richardsaltoun.com
Opening Hours Monday-Friday 10am-6pm

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.