Artists and Other Frenchmen:
Pocket Utopia’s reopening show, a one-evening exhibition of Donald Steele’s photographs under the title The Queen and I, is followed by the gallery’s first exhibition proper, one that might also have been called The King and Others. Spanning more than three centuries of French printmaking, it assembles portraits of subjects as diverse as François I, the French king and patron of Leonardo da Vinci, and Louis XIV, the “Sun King,” as a shy six-year-old boy, to a whole parade of painters, sculptors, and engravers of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Once celebrated, some of them working in the service of the French court, all but a few of these characters have since been forgotten. But not, of course, Charles Baudelaire, the poet of la vie moderne, seen here in two etchings by Marcel Duchamp’s brother Jacques Villon from around 1918.
These impressions were treasured by print collectors over the centuries but have since fallen out of fashion to much the same degree as their subjects. Perhaps a review is in order. These images do not merely represent absolute rulers, or the vain posing of artists who played to the taste of their times. Instead we might see these prints as the results of a series of brilliant technical accomplishments that allowed them to ascend from the realm of craft to that of art. Louis Metcalfe wrote in 1912, for example, of Robert Nanteuil’s works: “Nothing more admirable has been done in the realm of engraving than these quiet prints in which there is no affectation […] and it is a question whether anything more sincere has been accomplished in the history of portraiture.”
We understand this show as something of an excavation, an archeological exercise as much as any art history is. As a laboratory open to experimentation, Pocket Utopia invites viewers to rediscover these exceptional and curious old prints.
Pocket Utopia is located at 191 Henry Street, between Clinton and Jefferson Streets, NYC, Hours are Wednesday - Sunday from 11am - 6pm.
For further information or visuals please call Austin Thomas at 917-400-3869 or C.G. Boerner 212-772-7330