Widely exhibited and collected since the 1970s, Annette Messager makes enigmatic works from simple materials that refer to identity and daily life in ways that are childlike yet sinister. The Parisian Conceptualist is as celebrated for her artist books and altered photos as she is for large-scale installations, like the Pinocchio-inspired project for the French pavilion that won her a prestigious Golden Lion at the 2005 Venice Biennale. Here she presents two sprawling installations, along with other pieces, including drawings that toy with the French word for “luck”—chance.
The first piece you encounter, The Hat, sets the stage for the rest of this magical show. It features a tall, black cone fringed with long, brown locks suspended above a fan, which sends the hair flying like a witch on a broom. Next up is a darkened room displaying The Black Continents, a collection of 19 hanging sculptures of architectural and animal forms based on the floating islands from Gulliver’s Travels. Viewed upside down and lit by swinging bulbs, these otherworldly structures cast ominous shadows on the surrounding walls.
The second installation, titled And clean up your room, offers an amazing array of stuffed leatherette pieces—including a figure, ensnared in a net, with a tiny bed on his chest, and countless badges with words and images that curiously catalog both the artist’s good fortune and her haunted dreams.—Paul Laster