Last year French artist Ernest Pignon-Ernest organized an exhibition at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Arts in Nice, his hometown in sunny South of France. The exhibition ended January 8th.
About The Artist
Ernest Pignon-Ernest is recognized as a street art pioneer in France. Born in 1942, the artist who currently lives and works in Paris, has been painting ephemeral works since 1966, and has been using his art to reveal the story of some special places, highlighting their flaws but also their beauty.
All his creations have been showing his sensitiveness to social injustices, dealing with abortion, aids or evicted people. His first work was a collage expressing his reaction to France’s Nuclear Strike Force.
About The Exhibition
The exhibition starts on the ‘Prison’ collection. This first section immediately reveals the artist’s concern for human issues.
“Seeing these pathetic crumbs of hope, these shoes, pieces of shirts and blankets hanging from the barbed wire, I thought of the bodies that had once inhabited them and I remembered that the Saint Paul prison had once been home to one of the highest suicide rates. From there, I thought of the sheet, the shroud swaddling an anonymous body, with nothing but a hand visible, suspended from the barbed wire like abandoned laundry”
“The yoyos refer to the plastic bottles that prisoners attempted to pass on from one cell to the next using bits of strings or strips of bed sheets, to swap messages, coffee, cigarettes, hash, messages in bottles that were generally left hanging from the barbed wire, dangling like ex-votos devoid of hope. This image of the hanging yoyos, reading memoirs and talking to some former detainees, inspired this idea of allegories in the form of ‘yoyo metaphors’, yoyos filled with anger, desire, guilt, despair, love, hope, signs to their children and parents”
Clearly against the Apartheid, Ernest Pignon-Ernest displayed in this hometown the representation of a black family behind a barbed wire fence to reveal what lies behind the twinning of the cities of Nice and Cape Town in South Africa.
Not only pasting on walls, the artist also used the glass of phone boxes to create real-life stories. This Hopper-like collection, whose major darkness is contrasted by strong light and vivid colors, represents humans imprisoned in blocs of glass where time and communication seem suspended.
“I’d noticed that phone boxes could be stages for everyday dramas. I’d seen that often people making calls there held a newspaper in their hand, looking for jobs or housing. These were places of communication in which people are isolated behind glass, cast in a vertical light, behind glass that conjures up an image of muffled calls and words. Because I always aim to place my human images in the context of their spaces, amidst the signs of the city, with its angles, its escapes, its reflections, I chose each phone box with this in mind, to the point that the signs of the city literally inscribed themselves in my characters”
The rest of this large retrospective focused on Italy, especially Ernest’s beloved Naples. All his works put the spotlight on the representation of the human body, its belonging to a community, a culture, a social and political sphere, as a way to question our collective memory.