by Joe Nolan
Four of the Chapman's etchings from their 2000 portfolio Exquisite Corpse are on display at the Frist show. These images pay homage to the Surrealist's parlor game while also emphasizing the dual nature of the pair's art-making partnership. The simple, framed prints can be easy to overlook in the show's over-the-top galleries, but the Chapman's work makes the exhibit's connections between the subconscious and the monstrous explicit, and a discerning eye will also find these to be some of the most detailed works in the show.
There are a number of ways to create exquisite corpses using a variety of media, but the game's constants are that it's always played by more than one person and that every player's contributions must be more-or-less blind. The Surrealists loved this game because it created collaborative effort even as it denied any one artist control of the final work. In this sense, it was thought to reveal a glimpse of the consciousness of the group as a whole.
The visual art version can be accomplished by similarly drawing or painting contributions on a sheet of paper. Here, the Chapman brothers created their prints using separate plates, taking turns creating the upper, middle and lower portions of each creature.
The phrase “exquisite corpse” comes from one of the Surrealist's earliest literary experiments with the game, which resulted in the line: “The exquisite corpse will drink the young wine.”
The exquisite corpse is dead! Long live the corpse!