I'll admit that I don't reverently read every word of every press release that I get sent, indeed that sometimes I turn up to an exhibition not knowing the slightest thing about what to expect. I wandered into the Whitechapel a week or two ago sort of by accident, I was passing and thought 'oh well, may as well take a look at the Hans Bellmer show and whatever is downstairs at the same time'. The name Pierre Klossowski was a new one to me, but I guessed that he was someone working in Europe today, producing these very large scale drawings of nudes, sado-masochistic scenes and general perversity in a retro style that recalls Art Deco, Symbolism etc. In addition there were a few fibreglass statues, essentially real life versions of the drawings, that brought to mind the Chapman Brothers in their spooky creepiness. It seemed like the work of a contemporary artist in thrall to the glamour of deviant sexuality (in the strict Freudian sense, I'm not making any moral judgments about this) and probably with half an eye on the lucrative market in semi-erotic wall decoration that keeps the galleries bubbling along.
Anyway, turned out that this Klossowski was the elder brother of Balthus, and lived through the Surrealist era being born in Paris in 1905 and dying as recently as 2001. The pairing with Bellmer upstairs was fairly interesting, if only to bring out the familiar twentieth century themes of the self and its fashionable dissolution through sex (Foucault was a fan apparently, when he could drag himself away from the nightclubs) and power games. The Bellmer show had some good looking drawings which I enjoyed if only to give us a break from his bloody doll's body. I don't know. Surrealism has had a bit of a critical reappraisal lately, from the Hayward show based on Bataille to the Tate Modern rehang and that heavyweight book Art Since 1900 by the October crew - but Hans Bellmer was never the strongest artist and this Klossowski ends up just looking like an enthusiastic amateur. At least Louise Bourgeouis has extended her formal range somewhat over the years and isn't still trying to actually live in the 1930s!