Menil displays body art
Body in Fragments displays a collection of body parts gathered from across the globe to discuss the nature of the human condition.
The entire exhibition, held in the Menil Collection through Feb. 28, encourages self-reflection.
This is exemplified with the first piece of the collection, which allows the viewer to glance at the reflection offered by two slanted mirrors.
This work reminds viewers of how they perceive their physical selves. The use of the idealized form creates tension between ‘what is’ and ‘what should be’ in terms of physical appearance.
Some of the other pieces examine society’s views of idealized figures. To the right of the mirrors is the weathered marble torso of a Roman man. Traditionally, Roman sculptors promoted the ‘ideal’ form of the human body, as seen in the well-muscled and anatomically correct figure.
The word ideal is stamped in bold black ink across the red abdomen of a Charles James dress form for Dominique de Menil. The piece asks the viewer if this slim shadow of a woman is an epitome of femininity, as Menil may have fit the profile for her generation.
Just a few feet away, a small sculpture of a curvaceous woman from centuries past sits on a shelf with wooden spoons and figurines. She may have fit her culture’s profile for femininity, as well. These premises point to the conclusion that the interpretation of physical appearance is time, culture and gender specific.
Ren’eacute; Magritte’s series of frames that compose ‘The Eternally Obvious’ is the pinnacle of Body in Fragments. The nude woman depicted is divided into anatomical sections on five framed canvases.
Although she lacks arms, she smiles and glances softly as though she holds a secret behind her eyes.
This popular piece is somewhat puzzling. Learning the secret behind her eyes sends viewers on an adventure to look at the artist’s roots and their own. This allows viewers to have an active role in the interpretation of who she is and what she implies.
The forms are in fragments, lacking the arms and legs that would give viewers the complete picture.
Part of the human condition is that people usually lack some of the details that provide the whole story. However, people often do have enough fragments to make sense of the situation.
This work shows viewers hands, hair, heads and legs that provide enough information to tell a story about the way they were used and the principles surrounding humanity that the artist sought to convey.
This exhibit is a magnet for fresh ideas and open minds. It was surprising that these pieces, which would otherwise lay dormant in the storage section reserved for odds and ends, became a forefront in the quest for understanding the human condition.