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Wols’ Religiosity

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Michael Bise reflects on a perceived religiosity in the work of Wols, on view at the the Menil Collection, Houston, through January 12, 2014.

Bise writes that looking at Wols paintings "was [like] looking at religious icons—an impression I never have after looking at Ernst, Magritte, Pollock or even Rothko? … I see Wols as a classically religious figure. In his photographic self portraits I see the holy fool—images that would be perfectly at home on the screen next to the anguished face of Renée Jeanne Falconetti in Carl Theodore Dreyer’s great film on religious conflict, La Passion de Jeanne D’Arc. His photographic still lifes of food that seems to be on the edge of decomposition and depictions of his seemingly dank studio have all the visual hallmarks of deprivation and asceticism that have come to characterize the monk in his cell. But more than any other works in the exhibition, Wols’s oil paintings seem to me to have distilled the central composition and palette of religious icon paintings into a nearly abstract language."

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