The Morgan To Celebrate Iconoclast Alfred Jarry

“Alfred Jarry: The Carnival Of Being” Opens Jan. 24

December 27, 2019

The Morgan Library and Museum is pleased to announce the first major U.S. museum exhibition exploring the iconoclastic works and personality of the French writer Alfred Jarry (1873–1907). Opening Friday, Jan. 24, and running through May 10, “Alfred Jarry: The Carnival of Being” considers the author’s seminal role in the radical upheaval in the arts more than a century ago. An inspiration for Dada and Surrealism and a touchstone for the Theatre of the Absurd, Jarry is best-known today for his revolutionary play Ubu roi (1896) and for his invention of pataphysics, a “science of imaginary solutions.”
Jarry was also a puppeteer, a critic, a novelist, an artist, and a bicycle fanatic. His works suggested that technology, popular imagery, and the performance of everyday life could constitute works of art. Jarry’s statement that “living is the carnival of being” embodies his anti-authoritarianism and subversive theatricality, expressed in a life of excess, wordplay, alter egos, and the unfettered imagination. Since his death in 1907, Jarry’s eclectic works and ideas have continued to resonate for figures of the 20th- and 21st century avant-gardes.
“Alfred Jarry: The Carnival of Being” celebrates the gift to the Morgan Library and Museum of the books and manuscripts in the Robert J. and Linda Klieger Stillman Pataphysics Collection. The exhibition considers some of Jarry’s many innovations by exploring his engagement with printed matter and the graphic arts. One of the first writers to experiment with visual typography, Jarry forged new relationships between image and text in his experimental approaches to book and magazine design. His use ofassembling, anachronism, collage, and appropriation are bellwethers of modern and contemporary practices. Drawing primarily on the Stillmans’ collection, the installation is contextualized with other objects in the Morgan’s collections as well as loans from private and institutional lenders, comprising manuscripts, drawings, photographs, and ephemera. Paintings and prints by figures in Jarry’s circle, such as Henri Rousseau, Pierre Bonnard, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, are also featured. The final portion of the exhibition points to ways in which Jarry’s writings have inspired pataphysical organizations and visual artists at particular historical moments, featuring works by Marcel Duchamp, Mary Reynolds, Joan Miró, Dora Maar, Max Ernst, Thomas Chimes, and William Kentridge, among others.
“We are thrilled to be able to explore Alfred Jarry’s seminal role in the development of modernism as a consequence of the Stillmans’ generous donation. One of the finest and most complete Jarry collections in private hands, the Stillmans were keenly attentive to specific attributes in books, bindings, special papers, corrected proofs, and provenance, qualities that are consonant with the values that have defined the Morgan’s holdings for more than a century,” said Colin B. Bailey, director of the Morgan.
“Alfred Jarry: The Carnival of Being” is organized by Sheelagh Bevan, the Morgan Library and Museum’s Andrew W. Mellon associate curator of Printed Books and Bindings.
The Morgan Library and Museum is located at 225 Madison Ave. at 36th St., New York, N.Y.
For further information, visit www.themorgan.org.

 

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