Anne–Lise Coste “LA LA CUNT” at Dortmunder Kunstverein, Dortmund
Regardless of the specific technique Anne-Lise Coste (*1973, Marignane, FR) employs in her work – whether airbrush, spray paint, lacquer, acrylic or oil – her drawings and texts, brimming with immediate and spontaneous gestures, are often reminiscent of graffiti and urban space. These compositions of simple schematic shapes and words refer, among other things, to the long history of Art Brut. Considered by the artist to represent the freedom of childhood – but also resistance – this combination of “naïve” lines and specifically referential words or symbols casts a view onto both the violence of our society and the beauty of the world.
This is reflected already in the exhibition’s title, “LA LA CUNT”: in an ambiguous, poetic way, it provides a preview of what is on view. The title refers to the slightly kitschy, Oscar-winning Hollywood musical “La La Land“ (2016), and links it to a pejorative term for women. The first work one encounters at the entrance is already a direct reference to this struggle between power, gender and poetry: “Poème, Pute, Police“. The three spray-painted words, written with a hasty hand on a found window, at first read like an alliteration, but they also directly express the tension between violence and beauty.
A certain play within the combining of words sits at the center of Anne Lise Coste’s work. The 54 canvases of “Poème de la Douleur“ (Poem of Pain) each bear a single spray-painted word, and as the title suggests, can be read like a poem. Meaning arises – and changes – according to the combination of words, while also depending on the pace in which one walks by or their attention paid while doing so. Strung in a row across the gallery’s floor, the words draw a line like Constantin Brancusi’s Infinite Column, dividing the space into two halves – perhaps a reference to the conflict between specific terms and their potential for varied ascriptions in determining meaning.
The series of paintings leads one to the rear of the Kunstverein, where an ensemble of works take a clear stance towards the position of women in society in these #metoo times. Spray-painted on the wall are the words “For a new Thelma and Louise where they don’t die at the end”, referencing Ridley Scott’s road-trip movie “Thelma and Louise” (1991), which tells the story of two women fleeing the oppression of sexist and violent men. Their Ford Thunderbird convertible aids them in their getaway but is also ultimately responsible for their death. Similar to graffiti found on the street, the sentence seems like an invitation to rewrite existing histories: to redefine them, but also to remember them. A similar feeling resonates from another canvas on display here that references Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” (1907) – Picasso did not in fact paint mademoiselles, as the title suggests, but a brothel scene. By adding the French word “pute” (bitch) to her interpretation of the painting, Coste unmasks this game of hide and seek.
Let’s go back to the start of the exhibition: both the canvases of “Poésie”, picturing the essence of poetry, and “le beau coucher”, which illustrates a sunset as viewed from the highway, balance the weight of oppression, violence and abuse with a marked lightness of being. Together, all these works stand for an oeuvre that exudes irony, rebellion, and emotion, while at the same time revealing a catalog of contemporary anxieties where strength and fragility, violence and sensuality, or poetry and social critique meet.
Curated by Oriane Durand
At Dortmunder Kunstverein, Dortmund
until 31 May 2020