artist / participant
Legion of Honor
Alexandre Singh - A Gothic Tale
September 7, 2019–April 12, 2020
A Gothic Tale introduces Alexandre Singh’s imaginative universe through his debut short film, The Appointment, a darkly comic tale of doubling and mistaken identity. Embracing the twisted, fantastical traits of the Gothic literary tradition, from E. T. A. Hoffmann to Roald Dahl, while also paying homage to San Francisco’s place in cinematic history, this atmospheric thriller unfolds with the inevitable fatalism of a film noir. Henry Salt wakes from a nightmare to find an entry in his diary: “12 o’clock at the restaurant La Folie.” But whom is Salt meeting, and why doesn’t he remember making this appointment? When no one shows, Salt becomes obsessed with solving the mystery. Charging through a series of surreal encounters, he discovers that the truth is more disturbing than he could have possibly imagined.
Conceptualized and designed by Singh with art historian Natalie Musteata, A Gothic Tale begins with a selection of works from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s encyclopedic collections that embody the doppelgänger, a key trope of the Gothic tradition. Within a room of mirrored walls—a nod to Orson Welles’s The Lady from Shanghai (1947)—artworks and viewers alike are endlessly reflected. This doubling scenography serves as an eerie presage to the film’s storyline as well as a flashback to the Legion of Honor’s founding: not only does the museum replicate the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris, but it is also located atop a former paupers’ cemetery and commemorates the fallen soldiers of the First World War.
“A Gothic Tale’s installation of works from the collection pays tribute to the legacy of the Legion of Honor’s groundbreaking curator Jermayne MacAgy,” says Claudia Schmuckli, Curator in Charge of Contemporary Art and Programming at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “In the 1940s, MacAgy revolutionized the practice of exhibition making through her innovative installation designs, that emphasized transcultural and transhistorical narratives.”
The film’s haunting score, written by the Dutch composer Gerry Arling, will be performed at scheduled intervals on the Legion of Honor’s historic Spreckels organ.
Organized by Claudia Schmuckli, Curator in Charge of Contemporary Art and Programming at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, A Gothic Tale is Singh’s first solo exhibition in a West Coast institution.
Alexandre Singh’s artistic practice includes installation, performance, literature, collage, and video. Singh’s work has been the subject of solo presentations at White Columns, New York; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; and The Drawing Center, New York, as well as numerous group exhibitions, including the Whitney Biennial, Lyon Biennial, and Manifesta 8. Singh’s collaborations include Hello Meth Lab in the Sun at the Ballroom, Marfa, Texas, and UNCLEHEAD, with Rita Sobral Campos, at the Museu da Eletricidade, Lisbon.
Natalie Musteata is an art historian and curator whose work focuses on the history of artist-curated exhibitions, film, and performance art. She holds a doctorate in art history from The Graduate Center, CUNY. In collaboration with EMU Films, she produced Singh’s surreal mystery The Appointment (2019).