J’aime Eva


ChertLüdde, Berlin

J’aime Eva presents a body of work reflecting upon collage as an art-technique and as a device from the historical avant-garde to represent and transform human relationship with reality.

The starting point is the summer following the invention of collage in 1912, when Picasso spent some weeks at Céret and Sorgues in the company of his lover, Eva (Marcelle Humbert). One of the experiments of this summer was the attempt to incorporate true relief and, in at least one case, an actual object on the canvas surface in the only collage Picasso seems to have executed during that summer, titled Guitar: J’aime Eva. This unusual work may have been partly inspired by a portrait by Henri Rousseau. The painting, titled Myself, Portrait and Landscape, portrays Rousseau in the costume of an artist-peintre, as he liked to call himself, complete with artist’s beret, palette and brush. Rousseau wrote the names of his two (then-deceased) wives, “Clèmence et Josephine,” upside-down on the palette in a naïve but moving tribute to his beloved muses. Picasso may have had this portrait in mind when he wrote to his dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler on 12 June 1912: “Marcelle is very sweet and I love her very much and I will write it on all my pictures.” The work which seems to correspond to this statement is “Guitar: J’aime Eva”. In its original form, which has been preserved only in photograph, Picasso wrote the words “Jaime Eva” in faux naïf, childlike handwriting.

The exhibition features 12 three-dimensional objects integrating painting, drawing and collage on their surface. The gallery has been transformed into a space partially submerged under water, where the pieces appear to be floating.

Another sculpture one is greeted by right at the entrance of the gallery gives a general summary of this image: there, one sees a human face indecisively coming out or submerging itself in the water, integrated with a model of the gallery space; the water level draws a horizon line where the outside seems to meet the inside.

This moment of transition has a parallel in one of collage’s most fundamental principles: the transfer of material from one context to another and its arrangement in order to produce a new reality, whose coherence follows no other rules than those of a fabricated new logic. It introduces an object, a substance, taken from the real world and by means of which the painting, that is to say: the world that is imitated, finds its whole self once again open to question.

Collage is said to be a subversion of all conventional figure-ground relationships and one of the most plastic materializations of the notions of difference and context, but most importantly it can be understood as an attempt to bring together life and work literally into a same unique surface, assessing and perhaps contradicting the distance between them.