Some people mellow with age, but not Annette Messager. She’s only become angrier, fiercer and more bitter as she’s headed into her seventies. The French artist has been a massive figure in continental art for decades, and this new show is her at her most acerbic and surreal.
The first work here is a series of giant suspended objects sewn out of leather. There’s an immense hammer, scissors, keys, safety pins and a diamond ring dangling from the ceiling, dwarfing you as you wander past their softened edges. There’s a handbag and an iPhone too. It’s like the domestic has been inflated, pumped up to ludicrous proportions as if it’s all either too much to bear or too obscene to take seriously.
In the next space there are snails with breasts for shells and severed dolls’ heads on kids’ scooters. It’s like she’s saying ‘well, you’ve got to laugh, eh?’
But the next few rooms are furious, full of drawings of uteruses with middle fingers and boobs cast as eyes, with words scrawled beneath screaming ‘my will, my force, my breasts’. There are images of menstruating women mixed with words like ‘my bloody mary’ and ‘mon ketchup’ (French for ‘my ketchup’, FYI), topless women with ‘fuck your morals’ scrawled on their chests. There’s a sculpture of a uterus in a tutu billowing about above a fan.
Messager is having a geriatric pussy riot all of her own, and she wants everyone to know about it. And that’s great, because there’s loads of passion to latch onto and jokes to laugh about here. But there’s a point where humour crosses over into silliness, and that anger ends up getting a little lost in a sea of cringe. Dommage.