Narcissus Reflected is the latest in The Fruitmarket Gallery
's series of group exhibitions made by invited scholars, writers and artists. Its prime mover and chief curator is David Lomas, an academic and exhibition-maker known for his work in the fields of surrealism and contemporary art. Artists in the exhibition include: Cecil Beaton, Bill Brandt, Claude Cahun, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dalí, Charles Henri Ford, Florence Henri, Jess, Yayoi Kusama, George Minne, Pierre Molinier, George Platt Lynes, Willard Maas, Paul Nash and Pipilotti Rist. The exhibition is on view from Apri 22 through June 26, 2011.
Narcissus Reflected explores 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 an early stage in his account of the formation of an individual's ego, at which they begin to be aware of their sexual drives and desires and seek a love object. The first love object they choose is their own body. In a 'normal' individual, according to Freudian psychoanalysis, narcissism should be only a passing phase.
In the developing tradition of Fruitmarket Gallery group exhibitions, Narcissus Reflected is a scholarly yet also personal, passionate, speculative and eclectic journey into the realm of Narcissus. At its appropriately doubled heart lies Salvador Dali's painting Metamorphosis of Narcissus (1937) and Narkissos (1976-91) the masterwork of the San-Franciscan artist Jess. Dali's painting is one of the most famous, most well-travelled and most often reproduced works of modern art, although this exhibition offers a rare chance to see the painting alongside the poem Dali wrote to accompany it, and a wealth of preparatory sketches and other material. Jess's large, hand-drawn collage, by contrast, rarely leaves the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and has never before traveled outside America. This exhibition presents it together with all the material of its makingsketches, a pin board with all the collage's sources, and a preparatory notebook.
Narcissus Reflected weaves a web of connections around these two great pictures, following the thread of Narcissus through experimental film and photography in the 1920s and 1930s and in America in the 1940s and 50s, 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 keep 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.