Helmut Newton

Musée de la Photographie Charles Nègre
1 Place Pierre Gautier
February 17, 2017–May 28, 2017

Helmut Newton, Catherine Deneuve, Esquire, Paris, 1976, laser-jet print, 40 1/2 x 28".

The French Riviera is a fitting context in which to exhibit Helmut Newton—few other places effect that particular mix of vulgarity and glamour. The photographer readily embraced this combination, as he was a Côte d’Azur dweller himself (a house near Saint Tropez in 1964, a Monaco residence in 1981). The exhibition provides a sampling of his nudes, fashion photography, and portraits, both silver-gelatin and laser-jet prints, plus a vitrine of Polaroids. Some of the first works presented are masculine portraits shot from the 1990s: from the searing gaze of actor Ralph Fiennes, Vanity Fair, Venice, 1995, to the distinguished profile of industrialist Giovanni Agnelli, Vanity Fair, Turin, 1997. His depictions of famous men—a monocled Karl Lagerfeld, Paris, 1973, or a bespectacled David Bowie, Monaco, 1982—showcase masculinity as debonair, but his portraits of women are explicitly stylized, eroticized, and exhibitionist (or just a whisper away from being so).

Newton’s women are femmes fatales. A model for American Vogue sips wine with one breast hanging out of her spaghetti-strap dress like a louche Greek goddess (Monaco,1996); a different model, shot from above, shares that sculptural quality—her breast is also exposed (Roselyne, Chateau d’Arcangues [Salon], 1975). Voyeurism is a throughline in Newton’s work, especially in Woman Being Filmed, 1980, where an audience gazes fixedly a woman whose top is being unbuttoned by a man. If Newton’s signature is female fetish, he is at least tongue-in-cheek about it, notably in the series of close-cropped profiles for Italian Vogue he titled “Rushmore,” 1982, immortalizing long-lashed, anonymous models.

Sarah Moroz

Michel Nedjar

Lille Métropole Musée d'Art Moderne (LAM)
1 Allée du Musée
February 24–June 4

Michel Nedjar, Untitled, 1977–78, dyed fabrics, 23 x 14 x 4".

Self-taught artist Michel Nedjar is the son of a tailor and the grandson of a schmatess, or second-hand clothier. Given this history, his recurrent use of recycled textiles carries a sense of inevitability. His earliest recrafted poupée, or doll, was a broken-off leg from his sister’s toy. Nedjar interred this shamanistic fetish in the backyard then dug it back up. Burial and retrieval are persistent themes in this career-wide show, which highlights collage, assemblage, found objects, muck, and bright stitching. Nedjar’s composite works double as reliquaries for his own life as well as mementos for modern tragedies.

As a youth Nedjar was marked by Alain Resnais’s chilling 1956 documentary Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog), about Nazi concentration camps. The psychic fallout from this dispatch permeates much of Nedjar’s work (exacerbated later by the AIDS crisis and the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks). Depictions of anonymous, teeming figures appear in the series “Icônes” (Icons) or in loose vortices with “Les foules” (Crowds), both 1986–92. His contorted and gnarled effigies called “chairdames,” 1978–86 (the title an ambiguous portmanteau of the French words for “dear” or “flesh” and “lady” or “soul”), were purchased by Jean Dubuffet, who deemed them “nightmarish” for their undead-looking features. Nedjar’s other dolls are less grim: There’s a cheery assortment made from costume scraps for the carnivalesque Jewish holiday Purim (“Poupées Pourim” [Purim Dolls], 1998–2013). His 173 “Poupées de Voyages” (Traveling Dolls), 1996–2013—fashioned from plastic, shells, tickets, feathers, flattened cans, driftwood, and other locally sourced rubbish from cities around the world—present an alternative cartography and attest to the artist’s boundless capacity to reinvent from wreckage.

Sarah Moroz