L’éloge de la main

Exhibition

Photography

L’éloge de la main

Past: March 11 → July 31, 2021

Galerie les douches photographie paris exposition 17 1 grid L’éloge de la main — Les Douches La Galerie La galerie Les Douches s’attaque à un vaste sujet : la façon dont la photographie s’est intéressée à la main depuis les années 1920. De toute évidence non-exhaustive, l’exposition parvient cependant, à travers le travail de près de trente artistes, à faire honneur tout autant aux mains photographiées qu’à celles qui les photographient.

Les Douches la Galerie is pleased to present L’éloge de la main [In Praise of the Hand], a collective exhibition crossing various movements that investigates the motif of the hand in photography. This exhibition brings together fifty prints from the works of twenty-seven artists spanning the period from 1925 to 2018.

The hand, a dreaded style exercise in painting and drawing, became a recurring technical and symbolic motif from photography’s earliest stages onward. Since a shot makes it possible to represent the hand as a fragment, isolated from the rest of the body, the hand henceforth became a subject in its own right.

It is the ultimate personification of an appendage, signing and affixing its digital imprint. On its own, it metonymically shapes its owner’s portrait. In fact, Beatrice Abbott chose to represent Jean Cocteau, who was so fascinated by hands that he made them speak in his film The Blood of a Poet (1930), through his two hands harmoniously resting on a hat.

Berenice%20abbott,%20hands%20of%20jean%20cocteau,%201927,%20ba2002008 1 medium
Berenice Abbott, Hands of Jean Cocteau, 1927 Gelatin silver contact print, printed later — 20,3 × 25,5 cm © Berenice Abbott /Courtesy Les Douches la Galerie, Paris
In Ernst Haas’ portrait of the pianist Arthur Rubinstein, the hand also stands for the subject’s profession and talent, and we search it for signs of his virtuosity. Accompanied by its sculpted double, this emblematic hand underlines his creative force.
Ernst%20haas,%20arthur%20rubinstein,%20hand%20sculpture,%20new%20york%20eh1605007 1 medium
Ernst Haas, Arthur Rubinstein, Hand Sculpture, New York, 1961 Gelatin silver print, vintage — 20,3 × 25,4 cm © Ernst Haas Estate/Courtesy Les Douches la Galerie, Paris

Often presented in still lifes or joined to industrial objects, hands also express an artistic subjectivity allied or opposed to mechanical production. Jean-Philippe Charbonnier’s hands, for example, are fused to a typewriter, thus becoming its machinery, while Denise Bellon’s tiny intertwined hands sow doubt through their artificiality.

Jean philippe%20charbonnier,%20perkins%20typo,%20avril%201961%20jpc2007001 1 medium
Jean Philippe Charbonnier, Perkins typo, 1961 Gelatin silver print, vintage, mounted — 30 × 40 cm © Estate Jean-Philippe Charbonnier / Courtesy Les Douches la Galerie, Paris
Denise%20bellon,%20natures%20mortes,%20poupees,%20c.%201930 1940%20db2002003%20copie 1 medium
Denise Bellon, Natures mortes, poupées, c. 1930-1940, 0 Gelatin silver print, vintage, — 23,7 × 30 cm Courtesy Les Douches la Galerie, Paris

At the opposite end of the spectrum, dematerialised, ghostly hands are a favoured motif of experimental photography. Cut off from reality, translucid, the hands of André Steiner, Roger Catherineau, Maurice Tabard and more recently Thierry Balanger present a familiar subject in an unknown, almost phantasmagorical version. In Soluble Fish (1934), André Breton was already able to write, ‘I took this hand in mine; raising it to my lips, I suddenly noticed that it was transparent and that through it one could see the great garden where the most experienced divine creatures go to live’1.

Val%20telberg,%20mr%20et%20mrs%20bromley%20vt1804004 1 medium
Val Telberg, Mr and Mrs Bromley, 0 Gelatin silver print, vintage, — 22,5 × 28 cm © Val Telberg Estate /Courtesy Les Douches la Galerie, Paris

In surrealist photography, the cut off hand is a symbol of the liberated psyche, destabilising all logical meaning. In fact, the First Manifesto of Surrealism states that, ‘It will glove your hand, burying therein the profound M with which the word Memory begins2’. The glove is a surrealist attribute and poetic subject that conceals at the same time as it dresses. For Germaine Krull and Jean Moral it is both body and object.

Germaine%20krull,%20des%20gants%20blancs,%201925 1926,%20gk2002002 1 medium
Germaine Krull, Des gants blancs, 1925 Gelatin silver print, vintage — 20,3 × 14,7 cm © Fotographische Sammlung Museum Folkwang Essen/Courtesy les Douches la Galerie

Suspended in its motion, the hand is also the ultimate motif for the medium of snapshots. Tom Arndt is thus able to capture the passion of a political gesture, and Arlene Gottfried the silent language of tenderness and love. John Baldessari isolates, then joins, contradictory gestures, while Hervé Guibert reveals the simplicity of an intimate, routine gesture.

Tom%20arndt,%20freed%20hostage%20parade,%20new%20york%20city,%201981,ta1406039 1 medium
Tom Arndt, Freed Hostage Parade, New York City, 1981 Gelatin silver print, vintage, printed by the artist — 27,9 × 35,3 cm © Tom Arndt /Courtesy Les Douches la Galerie, Paris
Arlene%20gottfried,%20dancing%20at%20pool,%20granit%20hotel,%20ny,%201985,%20ag2002025 1 medium
Arlene Gottfried, Dancing at pool, Granit Hotel, NY, 1985 Cibachrome print — 50,8 × 40,6 cm © Arlene Gottfried Estate /Courtesy Les Douches la Galerie, Paris

In fact, it is the hand’s duality that makes it the ultimate photographic subject. A portrait of a hand doubles it, prolonging the mirror effect already produced by the pair of hands that are symmetrically positioned. Pierre Boucher recreates this duality through reflections, and André Steiner evokes an ambiguous reading through echo and differing scales. And finally, Bruce Wrighton adroitly composes frontal portraits around a false symmetry whose fulcrum is the point where hands join.

Pierre%20boucher,%20bras%20sur%20le%20guadalquivir,%20c.1934%20pb2102002 1 medium
Pierre Boucher, Bras sur le Guadalquivir, 1934 Gelatin silver print, printed later, c. 1960-70 — 16,8 × 23,1 cm © Jean-Louis Boucher /Courtesy Les Douches la Galerie, Paris
Andre%20steiner,%20etude%20de%20mains,%20c.1934%20as1902023 1 medium
André Steiner, Étude de mains, 1934 Gelatin silver print, vintage — 23,9 × 18,2 cm © Nicole Steiner Bajolet/Courtesy les Douches la Galerie
Bruce%20wrighton,%20clerk%20at%20woolworths binghamton,%20ny,%201987%20bw1204001 1 medium
Bruce Wrighton, Clerk at Woolworths, Binghamton, NY, 1987 C-Print, vintage — 20 × 25 cm © Estate of Bruce Wrighton /Courtesy Les Douches la Galerie, Paris

Autonomous fragments in experimentation or essential details of a captured moment, hands are presented in this exhibition as a photographic object that examines the medium’s technical specificities, running the length of its history.

1 André Breton, Soluble Fish (1924), in Manifestoes of Surrealism, trans. Richard Seaver, Helen R. Lane (University of Michigan Press, 1969), 90. fn2. André Breton, First Manifesto of Surrealism (1924), in Manifestoes of Surrealism, cit., 32.

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5, rue Legouvé

75010 Paris

T. 01 78 94 03 00

Official website

Château d'Eau
Jacques Bonsergent
République

Opening hours

Wednesday – Saturday, 2 PM – 7 PM
Other times by appointment Book an appointment: bit.ly/les-douches-rendez-vous

Venue schedule

The artists

  • Bruce Wrighton
  • Berenice Abbott
  • Hervé Guibert
  • John Baldessari
  • Pierre Boucher
  • Ray K. Metzker
  • Germaine Krull
  • Jean Philippe Charbonnier
  • Sébastien Camboulive
  • Tom Arndt
And 17 others…

From the same artists