Charles Fréger “Wilder Mann”

Charles Fréger "Wilder Mann"
From february 23th to june 30th 2013

Extension of the exhibition until June 30th.
On the occasion of the inauguration of the Briqueterie, the Val-de-Marne’s new Center for dance development, the MAC/VAL (Museum of Contemporary Art of the Val-de-Marne) is holding an exhibition of work by the photographer Charles Fréger.
Situated somewhere between mythology and medieval vestige, dressed in animal skins and plant matter, the « wild men » photographed by Charles Fréger praise the seasons and celebrate cycles of life. Together, they draw a map of ancestral European customs.

Statement

On the occasion of the inauguration of the Briqueterie, The Val-de-Marne’s new Center for dance development, the MAC/VAL (Museum of Contemporary Art of the Val-de-Marne) is holding an exhibition of work by the photographer Charles Fréger.

Situated somewhere between mythology and medieval vestige, dressed in animal skins and plant matter, the « wild men » photographed by Charles Fréger praise the seasons and celebrate cycles of life. Together, they draw a map of ancestral European customs. Carnival, masked rituals, the feast days of Saint Anthony, Saint Nicolas, mardi gras, the full moon, the first Sunday of the year, and the eve of Easter are all occasions for celebrating the cycle of the seasons in religious or pagan settings, with figures ranging from the apotropaic to fertility symbols.

From its beginnings, the work of French artist Charles Fréger (born in Bourges in 1975) has long been anchored in representations of the social body and in the construction of identity and self-image. Since 1999, his « Portraits photographiques et uniformes » have covered diverse categories of individuals and, from time to time, their group portraits, notably in the publications Majorettes (2002), Légionnaires (2002), Bleu de travail (2003) (on ‘blue collar’ workers), Rikishi (2005) (on sumo wrestlers), and Empire (2009) (on royal and republican guards). Uniforms and work clothes, masques and disguises, the costumes and clothing – each of these second skins is endowed with a particular, unifying character captured in Fréger’s typical full-length and frontal compositions.

To create his most recent publication, Wilder Mann ou la Figure du Sauvage (2012, Thames & Hudson), Charles Fréger crisscrossed European continent, visiting 18 countries with an anthropologist’s eye in search of the various contemporary incarnations of « wild men ». Every year, from France, to Bulgaria, from Finland to Sardinia, from Portugal to Greece, without forgetting Switzerland and Germany, men literally get into the skin of the ‘savage’ the time of a secular masquerade.

By becoming a bear, goat, deer, or boar, a straw man, devil, or monster with jaws of steel, these men celebrate the seasons and the cycles of life.

Their costumes, created from plants and animal skins, decorated with bones or belts of bells, their headdresses with horns or deer antlers, astonish with their extraordinary diversity and remarkable beauty.

Press release

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Presentation

A graduate of the École des Beaux-Arts de Rouen in 2000, from the start Charles Fréger has organised his work around the representation of the social body, the construction of identity, and the image of the self.

Since 1999, his ‘Photographic Portraits and Uniforms’ have amassed a sizeable corpus of individual and, more occasionally, group portraits, assembled in numerous publications: after his first series, Faire face, his output has included Majorettes (2002), Légionnaires (2002), Bleu de travail (2003), Rikishi (2005) about Sumo wrestlers, and Empire (2009) about royal and republican guards. School, the army and sport: a whole panoply of signs sketching the outlines of the notion of the group and speaking of the desire to forge an identity there.
Uniform and outfit, mask and disguise, costume and garment – each of these second skins imposes a typology that is at once singular and unifying, captured in images that, with Fréger, are usually frontal and full-length.

In his latest publication, Wilder Mann – the Image of the Savage (Thames & Hudson, 2012), Fréger sets out like an anthropologist to witness the many different forms taken by the Wild Man figure in modern Europe (Wilder Mann in German, Uomo Selvatico in Italian, Homme Sauvage in French). Carnivals, masked rituals, Saint Anthony and Saint Nicholas, Mardi Gras or full moon, the first Sunday of the year and Easter Eve are all moments for celebrating the cycle of the seasons in religious or pagan ways, to conjure up apotropaic figures or fertility symbols. These customs bind civilised humanity to the elfin spirits of untamed nature.

Julien Blanpied

Petit Journal

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