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Joel-Peter Witkin – Mythologies of Gods and Humans


On the occasion of photographer Joel-Peter Witkin 80th birthday, La Chapelle presents the exhibition “Mythologies of gods and men” which will bring together nearly 100 photographs and drawings of the artist on this central theme in his work.

There is in Joel-Peter Witkin a persistence of the myth, the one we dream of, the one we fear, the one we respect, the religious myth, the myth of the Greeks and Romans, the myth we create.

Looking at the themes of our modern society through references to mythology, Witkin allows it to reach the border of the sacred. Through this prism, his obsessions such as ritualization, sexuality, suffering, passion, death take on an almost unreal dimension. Joel-Peter Witkin is interested in the forgotten, damaged souls, dismembered and deformed bodies, he then stages them in a sublimated way, beyond what we see.

By revisiting the themes and the great masters of the history of art, by using his history, myths and religion, he creates a universe of his own, fruit of a reflection nourished by his own beliefs, his life, his culture.

His thoughtful staging is worked beforehand of the photography by multiple stages of drawings and collages and then at the moment of the printing which he realises himself with the same meticulousness and exigency.

He reveals to us a shocking image, sometimes disorienting, triggering a questioning about what we perceive and what our unconscious dictates. Joel-Peter Witkin pushes our minds out of looking and seeing beyond what we know.

Alternately provocative, denouncer, poet, witness, but always creative, Witkin offers us a work that pushes us towards the unknown where there is no longer any border between the real and the unreal.

Our eyes are turned upside down, our references jostled, beauty is revealed behind an apparent cruelty, life blends with the afterlife. There is no more comfortable truth but a world marked by a singular poetry, which disturbs our beliefs and upsets our heart and our soul.

This exhibition will provide a better understanding of the artist’s creative process through preparatory drawings and video documents leading to photography, but also through this confrontation of the profane and the sacred, the myth and the lived experience, of an artist who does not leave one without reaction.



Joel-Peter Witkin – Mythologies des Dieux et des Hommes
from September 14, 2019 to January 26, 2020
Impasse de l’Abbaye
78120 Clairefontaine-en-Yvelines


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