Sunday, May 13, 2018

Black Dolls at La Maison Rouge

Recently at our favourite Marais bar a young woman au courant with the Paris art scene told us to visit La Maison Rouge. We checked it out. Artnet News calls it "an art foundation dedicated to exhibiting private collections and marginal and outsider art". Sounded like a must-visit.
When John and I got there we found a show of Black Dolls, from the collection of Deborah Neff. For the last 25 years, Deborah Neff has been collecting American dolls made mostly between 1840 and 1940. About 200 dolls were on display in the gallery.
One of the first dolls we met was this weeping woman. We were touched.
The photograph behind this group of uncostumed dolls shows a black American child with a white doll. White dolls, it seems, were popular with all children. When black dolls appeared they were something new.
John and I were spellbound by this minimalist trio,
 and this lively young creature.
 Dressed dolls can be as stark as this sackcloth dress
 or as bon vivant as this fellow wearing bright pants and a smart shirt.
 The dolls vibrate with personality,
period couture,
 and robust vigor,
not to mention charm,
 and insouciance.
The dolls are truly overwhelming! Collect them all!
The gallery literature told us that "in the current state of research there is no indication of any movement, tendency or historical or geographical school". But promisingly dolls have "come to light ... that are manifestly by the same hand." 
Other dolls seem very 'one of a kind'!
 What child wouldn't want to be given one of these to cherish?
Some might prefer a dapper lad in plain cotton,
or velvet
or tartan. 
Or someone sporty,
or dark and mysterious,
or formal,
or mythic.
This amazing doll is apparently a self-portrait of black doll maker, Leo Moss.
We'll leave you with an unusual version of what are known as topsy-turvy dolls in which both black and white images are combined in one figure. In this instance the face of a white mass-produced doll has been partially covered with a hand-sewn black face. Eery and fascinating.
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Until May 20th

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