The Bearded Gas
On the sixth of July at the Theatre Michel the house was full and tensions between Tristan Tzara and the newly-burgeoning Surrealists were high. The program, "The Evening of the Bearded Heart," begins with the pint-sized Pierre de Massot reading a long and monotonous proclamation: “…André Gide, dead on the field of honor! Pablo Picasso, dead on the field of honor! Francis Picabia, dead…” That was the beginning of the end. André Breton, the leader of the Surrealists, incensed by the insult to Pablo Picasso, jumps from the audience onto stage, cane raised. His compatriots follow, and Robert Desnos and Benjamin Péret hold Massot from behind as Breton confronts him. In defense of Picasso’s honor, Breton orders Massot to leave the theater. Massot refuses. Breton strikes him with his cane, breaking his left arm...
—Excerpt from Le “NEW” Monocle, by Shana Lutker, Chap. 1: The Bearded Gas and the Blowing Nose
For the last year and a half, Shana Lutker has researched the fistfights of the surrealists. The exchanges of fisticuffs and obscenities between insulted artists across the stages and streets of Paris began with the attack described above, on July 6, 1923 at Tristan Tzara’s final Dada event, the “Evening of the Bearded Heart." Shana Lutker’s solo exhibition at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, The Bearded Gas is the first installation of the objects that grew from the artist’s investigation into these altercations.
This exhibition presents the first chapter of Lutker’s book, Le “NEW” Monocle, alongside a group of sculptures that originate, in form or idea, from the Theatre Michel and the fight at “The Evening of the Bearded Heart.” In the installation in Gallery 1, Lutker places these objects on a stage and allows them to tell a different version of this story in their own material language. Constructed from chrome, leather, plaster, lead, and wood, each object embodies different elements of the tension, absurdity, ambition, and aesthetics of this first fight. In Gallery 2, another group of objects is “waiting in the wings.” The viewer encounters these objects, which emerge from other fistfights, un-staged, but equally ready to relate their versions of these ideological battles.
André Breton defined Surrealism in the First Surrealist Manifesto (1924) as "Pure psychic automatism by means of which one intends to express, either verbally, or in writing, or in any other manner, the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, free of any aesthetic or moral concern." Likewise, Lutker’s text and sculptures are a means to articulate the functional gaps between language and object, between research and experience, and between then and now. Lutker's own experience of research—or, research as her experience—plays it's own role in this narrative. In opposition to the omniscient historical narrator, she acknowledges and reveals her own investment in and desire for the information she produces.
As part of the exhibition, Lutker will present a lecture on the first fistfight and it's repercussions on Saturday, April 27th at the gallery at 4pm.
This is Shana Lutker's third solo show with the gallery. Recent exhibitions and projects include Double Life at SculptureCenter, New York; Things, Words, and Consequences at Moscow Museum of Modern Art; and New Research Concerning the Fistfights of the Surrealists at The Center for Ongoing Research and Projects, Columbus, Ohio, and a residency at Cité internationales des Arts in Paris where she conducted much of the research and site visits for this project. [An earlier version of the text quoted above appears in the journalMATERIAL, issue 3]