Activities, exhibitions and projects

Hessie. Survival Art

Hessie. Survival Art

MUSAC. Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León

Image: Hessi, Boîte, 1975 - photo Bétarice Hawala. Courtesy Galerie Arnaud Lefebvre

Survival Art is the first major retrospective dedicated to Carmen Lydia Djuric (The Caribbean, 1936 - France, 2017), known by her artist name Hessie.

The exhibition aims to reveal the powerful complexity of the plastic language, hitherto virtually unknown, employed by an artist who was long pushed to the margins of art history. Both chronological and thematic, the exhibition unveils the artist"s obsessional complexity and brings to light multiple facets of her oeuvre by virtue of a broad body of work, including embroideries, notebooks, collages and boxes.

At this isolated house in the countryside, Hessie set up a studio and, in the late 1960s, on pieces of cotton fabric bought at the Marché Saint-Pierre, she began to develop a complex and singular form of writing, created with primary, seemingly weightless forms in a subtle interplay of fullness and void, of dots, loops, lines and knots. She thus affirmed her choice of an anonymous and alienating practice which desacralizes the work of art and subverts the mechanisms by which art is hierarchized.

Favouring humble, everyday materials (such as needles, thread, cotton, paper, buttons, plants, packaging, detritus...), she developed a language of great subtlety and unsettling complexity. Fascinated by the letters of the alphabet, as pictures before they become words, she developed a vocabulary of singular and mysterious signs, gathered from within her environment and her daily and domestic life. Without making any preparatory drawings, she patiently composed constellations of shapes in mutation, waves of grid-forms and enigmatic writings, with precise and repetitive hand movements. In parallel, in a series of recently-rediscovered collages, she created an inventory of daily life. Collecting objects, pieces of paper, items of clothing such as a child"s blouse, children"s toys, chocolate wrappers or cheese boxes, she composed a kind of family album that is both strange and deeply moving.

An enigmatic figure who fiercely cultivated her independence and anonymity, Hessie was nonetheless very active on the 1970s art scene, exhibiting regularly in France and abroad in galleries and museums (including Galerie Yvon Lambert, Baudoin Lebon, the A.I.R. Gallery in New York and the Lund Konsthalle in Sweden). Actively involved in feminist movements, she took part in actions organised by the women"s liberation movement and attended empowerment meetings alongside women artists such as Dorothée Seltz, Françoise Janicot and Isabelle Champion Métadier.

Hessie, Survival Art retrospective, co-produced by les Abattoirs, Musee d"art moderne et contemporain et Frac Occitanie Toulouse, aims to give the artist a voice, through extracts from her writings, quotes and a selection of archive video material which is being shown for the first time.

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