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Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme (MahJ)

Maryan: La ménagerie humaine / The human menagerie

November 6, 2013 - February 9, 2014

Portrait of the artist Maryan in front of one of his paintings

Portrait of Maryan

Born in Poland, in Nowy Sacz, in 1927, Maryan spent his adolescence in ghettos, work camps, and concentration camps. The only survivor of his family, he left for Palestine in 1947 and entered the Bezalel art school in Jerusalem, where he exhibited for the first time in 1949. The following year, he went to Paris, studied at the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts, in Fernand Léger's studio, and takes lithography lessons.

In 1952, he exhibited at the Breteau gallery, then, from 1956, at the Galerie de France, while participating in numerous exhibitions and group exhibitions. In 1962, tired of the Parisian art world, he moved to New York and became an American citizen. He died suddenly at the Chelsea Hotel in 1977.

In the 1950s, his painting oscillated between a cubist, graphic and sarcastic figuration and an abstraction in which we guess bodies, faces, animal shapes. From 1960, his characters locked in boxes give way to a carnival of creatures, half-men and half-animals, embodying power, self-satisfaction, disgust, idiocy. If his painting finds in New York an artistic environment in which to deploy, this freedom coincides with a growing fragility, physical and mental, of the artist.

In 1971, on the advice of her psychoanalyst, Maryan turned to drawing to purge the visions that obsessed her. For a year, he filled nine notebooks with Indian ink. This unparalleled ensemble which he calls Ecce homo will be presented for the first time. They constitute the heart and the framework of the exhibition. With desperate and devastating humor, he returns to his childhood, to his journey through war, which he accompanies with pithy comments in English mixed with French, Yiddish and Polish.

The exhibition is not a retrospective. Apart from a key painting from 1952, it takes up the highlights of the work painted and drawn from 1960 to 1977. It includes, in addition to the 1971 notebooks - given by the artist's widow to the National Museum of Modern Art, Center Pompidou in 2012 -, twenty paintings and forty drawings grouped into series. Excerpts from the film Ecce homo , shot at the Chelsea Hotel in 1975, will be shown in the course.

This project, which is in line with the discoveries or rediscoveries proposed by the Mahj - those of works by Bruno Schulz, Salomon, Felix Nussbaum -, benefited from the participation of the Center Pompidou and the Spertus Institute of Chicago, as well as than loans from the National Contemporary Art Fund, galleries and private collections, both in France and in Europe.

Curator: Nathalie Hazan-Brunet
Associate curator: Catherine Thieck
Project manager: Juliette Braillon

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