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Mâkhi Xenakis

1956 | Paris, France
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Mâkhi Xenakis — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

© Willem Schalekamp

French draughtswoman, sculptress and writer.

After studying architecture with Paul Virilio, Mâkhi Xenakis turned to set and costume design for the theatre, working in particular with Claude Régy. She then moved to New York, where she lived until 1989. There, she met Louise Bourgeois, to whom she showed her first drawings of spiders and small hideous women cowering in the middle of blank pages. Encouraged by Bourgeois’ strong support, the artist developed a series of drawings and engravings, large pastels in violent colours, flesh pink and dark purple, as well as charcoal sketches on the theme of loops, twists and turns and mollusc-shaped volutes, with patterns inspired by hair and octopus tentacles. This graphic proliferation in subtle contrasts of velvety black, grey and white was characteristic of her first artistic period. After writing a book about Bourgeois (The Blind Leading the Blind, 1998), she began to sculpt strange creatures made out of plaster moulded onto corrugated cardboard columns and topped with small fetish heads studded with pieces of wire or nails. In addition to this sculptural work, she published short stories about her childhood memories. Laissez venir les fantômes (Let the Ghosts Come in, 2001) evokes the figure of her father, the composer Iannis Xenakis. Les Folles d’enfer de la Salpêtrière (2004) serves as an accompaniment to the presentation of a group of sculpted figures in the Salpêtrière Hospital’s chapel in 2005.

In this text, Xenakis gives a voice to the women of all ages who were locked up in the hospice. She uses writing and sculpture as an exorcism that enables her to tackle the subject of femininity and madness by expressing all her childhood fears – of the oedipal relationship, of fertility, of sexuality –, which she translates into tondo-shaped pastels framed in black fur. After the column-women, the moulding technique of which resembles Picasso’s sculptures from the 1930s, Xenakis produced a series of monstrous creatures with bloated bodies and ample bosoms evocative of prehistoric idols. These carnal, grotesque, and hirsute pink dolls were presented in groups of two or three at the galerie des femmes in 2010 and were the subject of a beautiful text by Gilbert Lascault, in which he describes them as primitive idols of femininity. The Manufacture nationale de Sèvres created a pink bisque porcelain version of the sensual, curved figure, which Xenakis calls La Pompadour in a book she wrote on the subject. The little squat woman with soft, plump curves is reminiscent of her first drawings.

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Marie-Laure Bernadac

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
Mâkhi Xenakis — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mâkhi Xenakis, pastel bleu sur papier, 2017, 50 x 65 cm, © Mâkhi Xenakis

Mâkhi Xenakis — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mâkhi Xenakis, Pastel sur calque pourpre, 2017, 65 x 50 cm, © Mâkhi Xenakis

Mâkhi Xenakis — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mâkhi Xenakis, petite métamorphose 1, 2012, pastel on tracing paper, feathers, 40 x 40 cm, © Mâkhi Xenakis

Mâkhi Xenakis — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mâkhi Xenakis, La Pompadour, biscuit de Sèvres, 2009, © Mâkhi Xenakis

Mâkhi Xenakis — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mâkhi Xenakis, Sans titre, 2003, pastel on drawing paper, © Mâkhi Xenakis

Mâkhi Xenakis — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mâkhi Xenakis, Les folles d’enfer, chapelle de la Salpêtrière, 2004, © Mâkhi Xenakis

Mâkhi Xenakis — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mâkhi Xenakis, Les créatures bleues, 2010, © Mâkhi Xenakis

Mâkhi Xenakis — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mâkhi Xenakis, Conversation 2, 2012, resin, feather, oil, 30 x 15 cm, © Mâkhi Xenakis

Mâkhi Xenakis — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mâkhi Xenakis, Méduse, 2015, ink and watercolor on tracing paper, 115 x 100 cm, © Mâkhi Xenakis

Mâkhi Xenakis — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mâkhi Xenakis, Regard, 2016, watercolor ink on tracing paper, 100 x 70 cm, © Mâkhi Xenakis

Mâkhi Xenakis — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mâkhi Xenakis, Les folles d’enfer de la Salpêtrière, éditions Actes Sud, 2004 , © Mâkhi Xenakis

Mâkhi Xenakis — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Mâkhi Xenakis, Louise Bourgeois, l’aveugle guidant l’aveugle, éditions Actes Sud, 1998, © Mâkhi Xenakis

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