Kiki of Montparnasse

April 09, 2002 - May 24, 2002

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Kiki of Montparnasse

Kiki of Montparnasse

Man Ray
Kiki,  1923
oil on canvas
24 x 18 inches
Kiki of Montparnasse
Zabriskie Gallery exhibits works by and of Kiki from April 9 to May 24, 2002. Famous during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s as an artist, model, cabaret singer, and personality, Kiki - born Alice Prin (1901-1953) - was the symbol of bohemian and creative Paris during the annees folles, when the artworld switched banks, with Montparnasse supplanting Montmartre as the epicenter.

Born illegitimately in Burgundy to a poor linotypist, Kiki and her friends would steal vegetables from the neighbors' gardens to feed against their poverty. It was this creative knack of improvisation and instinctive know-how that fended off hunger and fueled her desire for experience. Kiki was raised mostly by her grandmother before leaving for Paris at twelve to live with her mother, who sent the child to school to learn reading and writing, in order that she could also get work as a linotypist. After a brief, unsuccessful stint in the classroom, she took odd jobs such as repairing soldiers shoes during the war. Not surprisingly, she left home at the age of fourteen to pose for a sculptor, and soon came into contact with major artists and writers of the time, who frequented the renowned bars Le Dome and The Jockey. Crowds roared as she would perform her raunchy songs, which somehow were both uninhibited yet inoffensive. There she met and befriended the likes of Hemingway, Kisling, Foujita, Cocteau, and Man Ray - the latter who also became her lover. Her collaborations with Man produced some of Surrealism's most iconic images, including Noire et blanche and Le Violon d'Ingres. She became a bit of a movie star, acting in nine films, including Leger's Ballet mécanique. Zabriskie Gallery will exhibit Kiki's drawings and paintings - portraits and dreamy landscapes composed in a light, patchy expressionist and naive style that was very much in keeping with her levity and endless optimism. She never submitted to the melancholia of life, having once said, "All I need is an onion, a bit of bread, and a bottle of red; and I will always find somebody to offer me that." Her first show of paintings at Galerie au Sacre du Printemps in 1927 completely sold out. In addition to Kiki's works, Zabriskie will also show images depicting Kiki, including photographs by Man Ray and drawings and paintings by Per Krohg, Moise Kisling, and Francis Picabia. At the height of her attraction, in 1929, she created a sensation when she wrote her memoirs, which were promptly banned in prudish America. Told in a frank and captivating prose, her stories of life in Montparnasse exposed a little too much for the goody-two-shoed public. Armed with the most endearing charms, creative talents, and a keen intelligence, Kiki revealed in her recollections the life of a fiercely modern individual who was "one of the century's first truly independent women" (Kluver and Martin).

This exhibition will coincide with the Spring re-issuing of Billy Kluver and Julie Martin's Kiki's Paris: Artists and Lovers 1900-1930, Abrams Publishers. A reception and book-signing to take place at the gallery is scheduled for Wednesday, April 24, from 6-8pm.

In addition, Anthology Film Archives will be screening Kiki's films at 5:00pm on May 18th and 19th. Please contact Anthology for confirmation of schedule and times - 32 Second Avenue, (212) 508-5181. The program for each date will consist of the following shorts films:

Ballet mécanique by Fernand Léger (1924, 12 minutes)
La Retour à la Raison by Man Ray (1923, 2 minutes)
Etoile de Mer by Man Ray (1927, 13 minutes)
Emak Bakia by Man Ray (1927, 18 minutes)
Galerie des Monstres by Jaque Catelain (1924, 10 minute segment)