Annette Messager

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

For years I’ve pored over magazine reproductions of Annette Messager’s pieces, deeply intrigued, sighing with longing to see the real thing(s). Messager has not shown much in the U.S. and only twice before on the West Coast. This first major American exhibition of her work, co-organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and MoMA in New York, where it opens this month, was long overdue.

Describing Messager’s work as poetic, mysterious, eerie, dark, smart, playful seems woefully pale. I suppose this is the critic’s most dreaded disease—admiration fever. If you love the work, you choke. If you hate it, you tend to foam at the mouth, wetting your shirtfront. How to put into words the way Messager’s work manages to be weirdly elegant yet scruffy, and as defiantly female as the Bride of Frankenstein fresh from the beauty parlor? Messager’s cheerfully morbid oeuvre looks like it was made by

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