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The Kunsthalle Bern presented Baltiques, a solo show by Denis Savary until December 9 2012.
Denis Savary is a Swiss artist born in 1981 near Lausanne.

A certain number of scenarios reappear cyclically in Denis Savary’s work, such as, for example, tales of erotic longing, domesticity and decapitation. Alma (after Kokoschka), 2008, reproduces the surrogate doll made in 1918 by Oskar Kokoschka to stand in for the love of his life, Alma Mahler, following her marriage to Walter Gropius. Oskar Kokoschka spent a year living with this doll hoping it would console him, going as far as parading her publicly with his friends. After a year, he beheaded the doll at a party and declared his heartache over. In Kunsthalle Bern’s vestibule, all four of Denis Savary’s Almas are gathered as a pack of hairy Amazons on a break.

Or consider Intimités (after Vallotton), 2007, which takes as its starting point an eponymous series of woodcuts by Félix Vallotton. These woodcuts depict scenes of domesticity between Misia Sert and her husband, Thadée Natanson, who was a close friend and early supporter of the Swiss artist as well as the publisher of La revue Blanche. Yearning in silence for years on end for the affection of his patron’s wife, when the time came to break the printing plates, Félix Vallotton kept cutouts of her face. Denis Savary simply reprinted Félix Vallotton’s suite, leaving out the pieces of the image that were actually saved from destruction, thus creating a blank space where the main protagonist’s head should be.


Maldoror, 2012, two gigantic coconut-like creatures made specifically by Denis Savary for his exhibition in Bern. The artist was perusing a Marx Ernst catalog in search of an image of a one-person sauna used to treat syphilitic patients. Instead he found a picture of a coconut-shaped water tank from Africa, which Max Ernst used as a formal reference to paint Eléphant Célèbes, 1921, and which Denis Savary remembered seeing reproduced on the cover of a paperback edition of Lautréamont’s The Songs of Maldoror. The artist bestowed a mythological and slightly anthropomorphic quality to this pair of comical sculptures. “The result stands halfway between a caricatural reminiscence of something that might have been featured in Jean-Hubert Martin’s Les Magiciens de la Terre and the decor of a Tiki Bar,” says the artist.


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