The first vision is striking. Entering the largest room at the Moco in Montpellier (3 hours and 15 minutes away from Paris on the fast train) is like discovering a celebratory space of some little-known, ancient and fascinating cult. There are static totems, primitive and grotesque, half human, half animal, revealing the diversity of their nature.
New kind of monsters
These new kinds of monsters are made from an assortment of bits and pieces. They are often dark, like the hare painted black which resembles a wooden statue subject to long-term corrosion. An army of sculptures emerging from the mind of Huma Bhabha (born in 1962), a star of the discipline, who captured imaginations with her exhibition in 2018 – among others – on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
Metropolitan, Tate, Pompidou and Montpellier
She also features in the collections of international institutions such as the Tate in London and the Centre Pompidou. The foresight of the Moco museum in Montpellier is to be commended, having organized the largest exhibition by number of pieces – around sixty – that she has ever staged, and which is on display until 28 January. 20 years of work. The show has been curated by Vincent Honoré (1).
Alone in her studio
Huma is an artist who likes to practice alone in her studio, manipulating, moulding, and tinkering with various materials. She is quite modest and far removed from glitz and glamour, saying things like: “It’s lucky not to have had success too early. It’s allowed me to be more sure of my work.”
Horror films and Brancusi
We can understand her visual flair when we consider that this born Pakistani artist, a long-term resident of the state of New York, is fascinated by both horror films and by art history. Her sculptures are frequently placed on pedestals evoking those of Brancusi, they are also stood on plinths which serve as an integral part of the work (See here a report about a Brancusi show in Romania). She says: “I consider pedestals to be like landscapes.”
Modigliani and Giacometti
During her stay in Paris she immediately went to visit the Modigliani exhibition at the Orangerie (See here the report about the Modigliani show). “Modigliani’s sculptures are like three-dimensional models of his painted portraits,” is her analysis. (See the report on the exhibition here). “I was blown away by the colours in his palette”. On Giacometti she says: “For a long time I primarily used found objects in my work. Then I looked at Giacometti a lot when I began to work with clay, his way of giving a marked appearance to things.” (See here the last report about a Giacometti show).
On the subject of horror films she references her discovery of the works of David Cronenberg over 20 years ago. “I am interested in the idea of creating monsters. The world is full on them. It materializes everything I feel. But there is also humour in my work,” she concludes, with a faint smile.
- (1) We’d like to honour the memory of the curator and head of exhibitions at Moco, Vincent Honoré, who passed away on 29 November 2023.
Until 28 January. www.moco.art/fr
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