A 1909 sketch on paper, a high-heeled shoe supporting an eye, topped by two lips upon which a hand rests. On the upper portion of the paper, as if on a coat of arms, we read the letters LSM: the entwined initials of Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe. When pronounced, these consonants sound like elles s’aiment, a mutual declaration of love. The lips and hand belong to Claude, the part that speaks and writes, while the eye and shoe are Suzanne’s, since in the couple, she is the gaze and the solid base of support. The necessity of each of these parts and the absence of hierarchies requires a perfect fusion that can come only from a relationship of love. Hands and lips, eyes and shoes become exclusive and recurring symbols to describe and reveal an enduring alliance, an interpenetration of souls and moods.
Photographs and books by Surrealist artist and writer Claude Cahun (France, 1894 - 1954) are on show for the first time at the Alberta Pane gallery in Venice. This is an important project that aims to highlight the exceptional research of Claude Cahun (born Lucy Schwob) who, together with her halfsister and life partner Marcel Moore (born Suzanne Malherbe), anticipated discussions on topics of extreme relevance in contemporary society, such as gender and identity.
I Owe You - Claude Cahun / Marcel Moore is accompanied by a publication with texts by curators and researchers Silvia Mazzucchelli, Miriam Rejas Del Pino, Paola Ugolini and gallerist Alberta Pane. Each volume contains a limited edition Fine Art print, inspired by the work of Claude Cahun/Marcel Moore, created by Marcos Lutyens. The artist, with whom the gallery has been working for several years, is also invited to conduct two participatory performances/inductions on the opening days of the exhibition: these are explorations into the meanders of the unconscious, which Marcos Lutyens transforms into an artistic experience that can reawaken memories of images, sensations and thoughts that were believed to have been forgotten.
Extract from a text by Alberta Pane for the exhibition catalogue: organising the exhibition I Owe You - Claude Cahun/Marcel Moore at the Venetian gallery is an important achievement and a great satisfaction.
I saw a work by Claude Cahun in 2018, in the Dancing with myself exhibition at the Pinault Foundation at Punta della Dogana. I immediately realized I had before me a great artist and, shortly after that first encounter, thanks to a conversation with Miriam Rejas Del Pino, who was at that time a student undertaking an internship at the gallery while at the same time working on her dissertation on Claude Cahun, I began to take an active interest in her work. Since that moment, my enthusiasm has only grown.
Claude Cahun is a complex and enigmatic artist, whose work completely coincides with her life and is permeated with countless facets and obscure points yet to be revealed, with fascination and mystery, but also with great contemporaneity; this is not only because of the topics she addresses, but also because of the originality with which she uses a variety of mediums such as photography, writing, collage, and sculpture, but also disguise, transformation, performance and theatre. The resulting work is the outcome of the union/collaboration with Suzanne Malherbe/Marcel Moore, her life partner and half-sister, and revolves mainly around the desperate search for an I/Self through the creation of self-portraits. The strength of the works lies precisely in this incessant, obsessive and continuous search for one’s own identity, which, however, will never be found, as it is multiple, plural and indefinable.
For this first important exhibition, I wanted to combine the work of Claude Cahun with that of the artist Marcos Lutyens, who has been represented by the gallery for several years now. Through the use of hypnosis, he searches for memories of images, sensations and thoughts that we believed lost or forgotten in the meanderings of our unconscious and of our minds, making us imagine new ones; he then transforms them into an artistic experience that translates into an explosion of colours and shapes. Marcos Lutyens is the author of the artwork, which accompanies the exhibition book, inspired by Claude Cahun’s work. Moreover, he has conceived an unprecedented hypnotic induction to be conducted during the two days of the exhibition’s opening with the public, as he has already done on several occasions in the most important cultural institutions and museums in the world.
This exhibition marks the beginning of the Alberta Pane gallery’s long-term project to spread and promote the work of Claude Cahun, highlighting its contemporary nature and the influence it still has today, as well as the resonance it produces in contemporary artists.
This exhibition is dedicated to all courageous people, but above all to Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore: we owe you.