Vázquez Alaya’s Santa.
Double exposure

Double exposure

Marilyn Manson... plus echoes of another Marilyn


Friday, 4 December 2020, 11:29


The word is out that this is going to be a weird Xmas: more like Halloween than Yuletide. Covid restrictions regarding festive gatherings threaten to wreak havoc with the customary parent/grandparent/Generation XYZ... seating equations.

Two photo shows reflect this Addams Family spirit. One spotlights thirty 'punky pix' of American shock rocker/all-round glam-goth provocateur Marilyn Manson, shot by British photographer Ralph Perou over a 21-year period. The other focuses on a prominent woman artist, likewise heavily into self-mise en scène.

Naked truth

I had been putting off for weeks - in "mañana, mañana" mode - a cross-town trip to La Térmica (the venue of the Manson extravaganza), when I landed by pure chance on an artistic treat, nearer home.

To be seen pronto at the La Coracha branch of the CAC (Centro de Arte Contemporáneo) - within walking distance of the Pompidou centre - until 13 December, Malaga-based artist Mónica Vázquez Ayala's solo stunner entitled Ausencia (Absence) echoes the vulnerability of another Marilyn.

Incorporating in excess of 80 images spanning almost a decade of creative "exorcism" (the term is hers), this distinctly 'extimatic' body of work (exteriorising the intimate) features baroque portraits of significant others (notably, a son, who has 'flown from the nest'), as well as in situ nude self-portraits exuding a sense of uncertainty familiar to many as the curtain falls on MMXX.

Trash Santa

Those of us who are Facebook followers of Rafael Fernández Pacheco, a photo-reporter who has been documenting not only Malaga province's art scene (his usual beat), but also the atmosphere of its streets and beaches in and out of lockdown, will be particularly sensitive to a key aspect of this artist's imagery.

To his dismay, Pacheco has been photographing heaps of discarded face masks and latex gloves over the past months; and - how very 'now'! - recycled rubbish is crucial to Vázquez Alaya's visual vocabulary, as are abandoned places (derelict buildings, empty office blocks...).

In one of her most striking photo-fantasies, a poor lonesome - if deadly sexy - Santa Claus is pictured in a rags and bones-like setting, wallowing in a mire of yet to be distributed children's gifts.

Antichrist superstar

Why the devil did I find the prospect of an exhibition devoted to Marilyn Manson so off-putting? Was I afraid of being freaked out by Perou's overview, pitched as 21 Years in Hell? Hardly. Too commercial? More like: "As if all those Black Friday promos were not enough!"

A trademark since the 1990s, when he registered it in order to take action against media outbursts targeting the (alleged) influence of his Hollywood bombshell-morphed into-satanic killer persona on the perpetrators of the Columbine High School massacre, Manson's hybrid stage name/nom de plume would have been a crowd-puller in the pre-corona era.

Dare I say it? There is something about retrospectives linked to hefty photography books that makes me cringe in anticipation - and, anyway, this isn't the Antichrist Superstar's first coffee-table publication. In 2011, he and fellow professional chameleon David Lynch unveiled Genealogies of Pain, a 176-page paperback catalogue, pairing 30 of Marilyn Manson's paintings with stills from four of the filmmaker's early shorts.

Nothing to write home about, that Térmica mindblower? My mistake. With close to zero attendance, this handsome tribute is a solitary pleasure - a voluptuous neo-Dadaesque experience. To be Perou-sed with delectation, till 22 January.

Saving grace

Two must-sees. However, in the event that some of you may share a secret yearning for less spooky pre-Christmas activities, I might have the perfect alternative: a splash of spiritual solace and soul-searching reflection.

Whether a believer, or not, read on before I sign off...

Who says a priest can't be cool? Father Louis of Saint-George's (the Anglican church in Malaga's English Cemetery) even includes contemporary art in his online services, and - how cool is that? - communicates beyond the parish via Facebook and Zoom. Message him on his Facebook page (Louis Darrant -Don't Call Me a Saint), if in the mood to plug into his virtual Advent style and content.

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