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“La Madeleine de Gide,” an exhibition featuring Pupa Neumann’s new photography, opened yesterday at the Parisian auction house Artcurial , on view through January 7. The series explores different facets of female identity through the equivocal yet widely unknown figure of Madeleine Gide, wife and cousin of French author, political thinker and Nobel Prize winner André Gide
Madeleine spent 40 years as the wife of André, who publically assumed his homosexuality (Oscar Wilde was one of his lovers). From the starting point of this extended platonic relationship, Neumann interprets and questions Madeleine Gide’s nature in images: was she a submitted woman? A twisted woman? A stupid woman? Or, on the contrary, a liberated woman?
This new series was initially created in the context of the photo competition PHOTO-ROMAN, in which Neumann was selected. The competition asked to put images on words and Neumann chose to illustrate one of André Gides’s quotes: “My cousin was very beautiful and she knew it. She wore her black hair in a headband, rivaled a cameo’s profile, and had glaring skin.”
Neumann’s photos use subtle typography and chromatics to reveal diaphanous women who subvert the stereotypes of female purity. Madeleine is at times represented as somatic through immobility. These prints tend to be wearying in their absence of movement. Other times she is depicted as a sexual creature, and these are arguably the most disquieting pictures.
In any case, the works’ ambition is to question directly the general self-determination of women. Are women unrestricted from choosing to be mistresses, pure, enlightened, perverse, disgusted, amused, or reasonable? What are the inner demons that women accept, own, or reject?