Exquisite Corpses: Drawing and Disfiguration

Steve Gianakos. She Could Hardly Wait, 1996. Oil and ink on cut-and-pasted printed paper. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection Gift.

In a collaborative, chance-based drawing game known as the exquisite corpse, Surrealist artists subjected the human body to distortions and juxtapositions that resulted in fantastic composite figures.

This exhibition considers how this and related operations – in which the body is dismembered or reassembled, swollen or multiplied, propped with prosthetics or fused with nature and the machine – recur throughout the twentieth century and to the present. Artists from André Masson and Joan Miró, to Louise Bourgeois and Robert Gober, to Mark Manders and Nicola Tyson, distort and disorient our most familiar of referents, playing out personal, cultural, or social anxieties and desires on unwitting anatomies. If art history reveals an unending impulse to render the human figure, as a symbol of potential perfection and a system of primary organization, these works show that artists have just as persistently been driven to disfiguration.

The exhibition is organized by Samantha Friedman, Curatorial Assistant, with Jodi Hauptman, Curator, Department of Drawings, The Museum of Modern Art and will run March 14th – July 9, 2012.