Narcissus Reflected

22.04.11 – 26.06.11

Cecil Beaton, Bill Brandt, Claude Cahun, Salvador Dali, Charles Henri Ford, Florence Henri Jess, Yayoi Kusama, Willard Maas, Pierre Molinier, Paul Nash, George Platt Lynes, Pipolotti Rist.

Narcissus Reflected explored both Narcissus and narcissism. Narcissus is the beautiful youth from Greek mythology, turned by the gods into a narcissus flower as punishment for his self-obsession and inability to love anyone other than his own reflection. Narcissism was identified by Sigmund Freud as a passing phase in the development of a ‘normal’ ego. Narcissus Reflected was a scholarly yet also personal, speculative and eclectic journey into the realm of Narcissus. At its appropriately doubled heart lay Salvador Dalí’s painting Metamorphosis of Narcissus (1937) and Narkissos (1976-91) the masterwork of the San-Franciscan artist Jess. Dalí’s painting is one of the most famous, most well-travelled and most reproduced works of modern art, although this exhibition offered a rare chance to see the painting alongside the poem Dalí wrote to accompany it, and a wealth of preparatory sketches and other material. Jess’s large, hand-drawn collage, by contrast, has never before traveled outside America. This exhibition presented it for the first time together with all the material of its making – sketches, a pin board with all the collage’s sources, and a preparatory notebook.

Narcissus Reflected weaved a web of connections around these two great pictures, following the thread of Narcissus through experimental film and photography from the 1920s to the 1960s, winding up in the big, immersive contemporary environments of Yayoi Kusama’s Narcissus Garden (1966) and Pippilotti Rist’s Sip My Ocean (1996). The works in the exhibition kept in play the full variety of meanings of the myth of Narcissus, the exhibition exploring, and seeking to explain, the enduring appeal of the Narcissus subject in art.

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