‘Lucian Freud - Portraits' at the National Portrait Gallery in London

Gepubliceerd op: 1 January 2012

A life in paint

Flesh, nudity and promiscuity characterize the ‘Lucian Freud portraits' exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Freud was born in Berlin in 1922 by Jewish parents and emigrated to London with his family to escape Nazism in 1933. He lived in the UK for all his life, becoming a giant of modern art and an iconic figure of the British contemporary art. The ongoing exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery has been planned since 2007, when the artist and Sarah Howgate, the curator of the exhibition, planned to stage a chronological display of Lucian Freud's artistic production.

This is Freud's first exhibition that focuses on his portraits and it comprises 130 paintings and works on paper spanning the seven decades of his prolific artistic career, from the early 1940s until the very last day of his life. Unfortunately, the artist suddenly died on 20 July 2011 at the age of 88, a few months before the opening of the exhibition. 

Although the theme of nudity is central to most of the works at display, it is evident that Freud's art slowly developed throughout the years. His first works, dating back to the 40s and 50s, recall elements of surrealism typical of portraits' painters of the time, but he soon abandoned such style to experiment with new techniques as the ‘impasto' based on cleaning the brush off colour after each stroke. These experimentations led to develop a style based on intense brushes and thick layers of paint that became the hallmark of the artist's latest portraits.
Freud's subjects are primarily his extended family, friends, lovers and, occasionally, himself. Sarah Howgate interprets Freud's portraits as the realization in paint of a personal relationship between the artist and the person of the painting that slowly developed over time. According to Howgate "his friends, family and acquaintances have always been eclectic, drawn from all walks of life, and this is reflected in the variety of faces and bodies that occupy Freud's paintings. Although many of his subjects have led complex lives, most of them - with the exception of a few public figures - prefer to hold on to their anonymity. Lucian Freud Portraits is a life represented in paint rather than a biographical retrospective."

EARLY WORK
This exhibition displays Lucian Freud's works in 10 rooms adjacent to the National Portrait Gallery's permanent collection. Rooms 1, 2 and 3 showcase works that cover the period from the 40s to the 70s. The highlights in this section are the two portraits of Kitty Garman, Freud's first wife, one entitled ‘Girl with Roses' 1947-48 made during Kitty's pregnancy, and the other entitled ‘Girl with a White Dog' 1950-51, completed not long before the couple separated. Both paintings highlight the surrealism phase that characterized the artist early productions. Works in room 2 highlight a new phase in Freud's production, where he began to draw more attention to the details of the subject as in ‘Woman Smiling' 1958-9, in which the face of his former student and lover Suzy Boyt becomes a land to be conquered in all its changing hues and shifting textures. Also, he started painting the complete figure instead of the head as in ‘The Painter's Mother Reading' 1975 and ‘The Painter's Mother Resting' 1976, which portrait the artist's mother with astonishing attention to body detail and smoothness.
In room 4, just opposite the exhibition entrance, is displayed one of the exhibition's highlights ‘Large Interior, W11 (after Watteau),' a large scale portrait of his lover Celia Paul, daughter Bella and ex-lover Suzy Boyt with her son Kai. The composition is inspired by a small painting by the 18th century French painter Jean-Antoine Watteau that portray a pierrot teased by a group of flirting women. The only link among the subjects is the artist himself and the portrait clearly shows the promiscuity that marked Freud's life. In fact, the artist holds several accounts of love affairs and children, 14 of them formally recognized, but probably many more still unrecognized.

BODIES
Room 5, 6 and 7 include his portrait ‘Reflection (self-portrait)' 1985, a particularly introspective work that he painted when he was in his sixties, and ‘Esther' 1982-83, the last portrait he made of his mother laying on a bed and dressed in white, recalling the typical posture for such subject from famous artists in the past. Rooms 8, 9 and 10, propose an overview of the last twenty years of Freud's life. In this section the nudes are the main subject of the paintings. Room 8 is devoted to Sue Tilley's, whose large body is painted in several portraits, such as ‘Benefit Supervisor Resting'1994, ‘Benefit Supervisor Sleeping' 1995 and ‘Sleeping by the Lon Carpet' 1996. The series of portrait draw Sue Tilley's asleep, lying languidly on the sofa, expressing femininity despite the proportions. These portraits underline Freud's predilection towards people of unusual or strange proportions. Room 10 hosts portraits of David Lawson, his assistant, Brigadier Andrew Parker Bowles, his riding companion, and painter David Hockney, among many other subjects drawn from acquaintances. All of them propose human bodies of a spectacular, unusual scale.

The exhibition ends with Lucian Freud's last portrait ‘Portrait of the Hound,' which features Freud's assistant and long-time friend, David Dawson, and Dawson's whippet, Eli. He worked on the subject for four years until he was too frail to draw, and the portray remains unfinished. Despite his notoriety, Freud worked incessantly for all his life with the enthusiasm and the energy of a young artist, painting in his studio family members and acquaintances until the very last day of his existence. This exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery is a tribute to Freud's iconic art.

Romina PROVENZI

‘Lucian Freud - Portraits' till May 27th at the National Portrait Gallery. St Martin's Place, WC2H 0HE Londen. www.npg.org.uk.

 

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A life in paint

Flesh, nudity and promiscuity characterize the ‘Lucian Freud portraits' exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Freud was born in Berlin in 1922 by Jewish parents and emigrated to London with his family to escape Nazism in 1933. He lived in the UK for all his life, becoming a giant of modern art and an iconic figure of the British contemporary art. The ongoing exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery has been planned since 2007, when the artist and Sarah Howgate, the curator of the exhibition, planned to stage a chronological display of Lucian Freud's artistic production.

This is Freud's first exhibition that focuses on his portraits and it comprises 130 paintings and works on paper spanning the seven decades of his prolific artistic career, from the early 1940s until the very last day of his life. Unfortunately, the artist suddenly died on 20 July 2011 at the age of 88, a few months before the opening of the exhibition. 

Although the theme of nudity is central to most of the works at display, it is evident that Freud's art slowly developed throughout the years. His first works, dating back to the 40s and 50s, recall elements of surrealism typical of portraits' painters of the time, but he soon abandoned such style to experiment with new techniques as the ‘impasto' based on cleaning the brush off colour after each stroke. These experimentations led to develop a style based on intense brushes and thick layers of paint that became the hallmark of the artist's latest portraits.
Freud's subjects are primarily his extended family, friends, lovers and, occasionally, himself. Sarah Howgate interprets Freud's portraits as the realization in paint of a personal relationship between the artist and the person of the painting that slowly developed over time. According to Howgate "his friends, family and acquaintances have always been eclectic, drawn from all walks of life, and this is reflected in the variety of faces and bodies that occupy Freud's paintings. Although many of his subjects have led complex lives, most of them - with the exception of a few public figures - prefer to hold on to their anonymity. Lucian Freud Portraits is a life represented in paint rather than a biographical retrospective."

EARLY WORK
This exhibition displays Lucian Freud's works in 10 rooms adjacent to the National Portrait Gallery's permanent collection. Rooms 1, 2 and 3 showcase works that cover the period from the 40s to the 70s. The highlights in this section are the two portraits of Kitty Garman, Freud's first wife, one entitled ‘Girl with Roses' 1947-48 made during Kitty's pregnancy, and the other entitled ‘Girl with a White Dog' 1950-51, completed not long before the couple separated. Both paintings highlight the surrealism phase that characterized the artist early productions. Works in room 2 highlight a new phase in Freud's production, where he began to draw more attention to the details of the subject as in ‘Woman Smiling' 1958-9, in which the face of his former student and lover Suzy Boyt becomes a land to be conquered in all its changing hues and shifting textures. Also, he started painting the complete figure instead of the head as in ‘The Painter's Mother Reading' 1975 and ‘The Painter's Mother Resting' 1976, which portrait the artist's mother with astonishing attention to body detail and smoothness.
In room 4, just opposite the exhibition entrance, is displayed one of the exhibition's highlights ‘Large Interior, W11 (after Watteau),' a large scale portrait of his lover Celia Paul, daughter Bella and ex-lover Suzy Boyt with her son Kai. The composition is inspired by a small painting by the 18th century French painter Jean-Antoine Watteau that portray a pierrot teased by a group of flirting women. The only link among the subjects is the artist himself and the portrait clearly shows the promiscuity that marked Freud's life. In fact, the artist holds several accounts of love affairs and children, 14 of them formally recognized, but probably many more still unrecognized.

BODIES
Room 5, 6 and 7 include his portrait ‘Reflection (self-portrait)' 1985, a particularly introspective work that he painted when he was in his sixties, and ‘Esther' 1982-83, the last portrait he made of his mother laying on a bed and dressed in white, recalling the typical posture for such subject from famous artists in the past. Rooms 8, 9 and 10, propose an overview of the last twenty years of Freud's life. In this section the nudes are the main subject of the paintings. Room 8 is devoted to Sue Tilley's, whose large body is painted in several portraits, such as ‘Benefit Supervisor Resting'1994, ‘Benefit Supervisor Sleeping' 1995 and ‘Sleeping by the Lon Carpet' 1996. The series of portrait draw Sue Tilley's asleep, lying languidly on the sofa, expressing femininity despite the proportions. These portraits underline Freud's predilection towards people of unusual or strange proportions. Room 10 hosts portraits of David Lawson, his assistant, Brigadier Andrew Parker Bowles, his riding companion, and painter David Hockney, among many other subjects drawn from acquaintances. All of them propose human bodies of a spectacular, unusual scale.

The exhibition ends with Lucian Freud's last portrait ‘Portrait of the Hound,' which features Freud's assistant and long-time friend, David Dawson, and Dawson's whippet, Eli. He worked on the subject for four years until he was too frail to draw, and the portray remains unfinished. Despite his notoriety, Freud worked incessantly for all his life with the enthusiasm and the energy of a young artist, painting in his studio family members and acquaintances until the very last day of his existence. This exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery is a tribute to Freud's iconic art.

Romina PROVENZI

‘Lucian Freud - Portraits' till May 27th at the National Portrait Gallery. St Martin's Place, WC2H 0HE Londen. www.npg.org.uk.

 

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Utopia - a Future Perfect?

What do we want now? What might our futures look like? Now, possibly more than at any time in the last twenty years, these are the two questions at the heart of contemporary thinking. The world is in recession. Over the past year, London has seen inflation, unemployment, protests on an almost monthly basis, and some of the worst rioting in memory. But the problems are not simply economic: there's a sense of decay, of something rotten at the very centre of our proudest institutions. The press, the police, Parliament, Whitehall: no longer do they form a delicate balance of productively conflicting power structures, but instead a homogeneous mass of incompetence and unpunished criminality. It's hardly surprising then that today's artists are responding to this bleak present with works that think about our possible futures.

January alone has seen three of London's newer and more interesting commercial galleries open exhibitions that, more or less explicitly, explore ideas around the future as a projected ideal or fantasy. It's certainly the right time of year - after the retrospective pontificating of December, January is traditionally a time for starting afresh and looking ahead.

What's interesting, however, is that while politicians and the media espouse or oppose change on the basis of the immediately ensuing future, artists are persistently putting this logic into question. To some extent, any question of reform - any re-evaluation of what we now want - necessitates a vision of an ideal future, some kind of utopian projection. But it's a necessity fraught with difficulty. Breese Little's current exhibition, ‘Back to the Future', explores the idea that we might have to look back as much as we look forward; whilst at Edel Assanti, Gordon Cheung curates a group show entitled ‘Immortal Nature' that examines erroneous past predictions about the end of the world. In both cases, the works on show ironise the past's conceptions of the future, thereby implicitly putting into question not only the accuracy but also the purpose of our own hopes and assumptions about the future.

The Future's History
One show in particular traces this logical difficulty back to what one might hesitantly term its origin: Thomas More's vastly influential, and ceaselessly strange ‘Utopia'. First published in 1516, the book divides into two sections - the first a series of fictional letters between real contemporary figures, the second an account of a journey to a mystical island and an exploration of its social mores. With its multiple framing devices the text is a kind of hall of mirrors - constantly undercutting itself with layers of irony and ambiguity. The very title - Utopia - is a neologism that stems from the Greek word ‘topos' (meaning ‘place') combined with a conflation of two prefixes: ‘eu' (meaning ‘good' or ‘well') and ‘ou' (meaning ‘no'). So, right at the origin of the very concept of utopia, is an equivocation. Utopia is always, to borrow a phrase from Wordsworth, "something evermore about to be".
This is exactly what the current exhibition at Hoxton Art Gallery is examining. Entitled appropriately ‘Utopia', the show features work across a range of media, including James Bacchi-Andreoli's otherworldly photographs of the urban landscape; Steven Dickie's digital/analogue conversations; and the space-age aesthetic of David Jones' paintings.
Head of Gallery, Lydia Cowpertwait stresses the labour-intensive nature of the works on show - something which characterises the works at Edel Assanti and Breese Little too. "People are starting to value craftsmanship again," she says, "and things that are handmade rather than mass-produced." The branded corporate take-over that accompanied the boom years is being replaced by a privileging of the local and the sustainable, as people begin to "go against society's consumerist grain".

Modernity in Ruins
Of particular relevance are the paintings and drawings of German-born artist Wieland Payer. Shrouded in a veil of nostalgia, these works portray the future as it may once have been imagined: monumental architectural structures discovered decaying in exotic jungles. As Cowpertwait explains: "Payer deals with the concept of Utopia in the most literal sense. The artist depicts explorers travelling through vast landscapes with peculiar Brutalist-like structures rising above wild fantastical forests."
The presence of this kind of architecture is no coincidence. As Payer says himself: "There is a strong link between utopian ideals and the architecture of the 1930s through to the 1970s - Art Deco, International Style, Brutalism. Subsequently architecture lost this spirit, or so it seems to me."
It is exactly this spirit and its subsequent loss that lies at the heart of today's attempts to think around the idea of Utopia. With the failure of the Modernist project came Postmodernism's rejection of any utopian spirit, and any thinking about the future was simply ironised to extinction. Modernism saw only Eutopia - the good place that justified the twentieth century's worst atrocities - whilst Postmodernism saw only Outopia - no place that could exist, an illusion, a promise false from the start. Each view is as limited as the other; now is the time to move beyond such oppositions.

Back to the Future
But, first, it's important to point out that the dream of a better future is nothing new; nor are the limitations of that dream. As Cowpertwait observes, "The concept of Utopia has taken many forms, whether being discussed in political philosophy, science fiction or even the Bible." At the same time, the idea of Utopia has lent itself well to satire - from Samuel Butler's ‘Erewhon' to Orwell's ‘Animal Farm' and ‘1984'. In the seventeenth century, Milton and Marvell both explored Eden's self-contradictions whilst Nicolas' Poussin's repetition of the phrase ‘Et in Arcadia Ego', etched in stone, serves a similar function. Even in Arcadia, death is here.
What is new though is the framing of the discussion. The question today is how to talk about Utopia - how to think about a better future, about the changes that could take us there - without resort either to Modernism's didactic idealism or the apathetic sneer of Postmodernity. One might look to the works of John Stark for a possible answer. Similar in some ways to Ged Quinn, David M Price and Katie Sims, Stark's paintings depict landscape as something pre-modern, the timelessness of which echoes the title of Edel Assanti's Immortal Nature. But Stark's is a landscape rich in open-ended symbolism, as the works directly confront the problems of both Modernism and Postmodernism.
For Stark, utopia "is always and only an abstract concept driven by the idea of progress and the fear of what the future holds." But today especially it's also a concept that is both necessary and unavoidable: it is Jacques Derrida's notion of the "democracy to come", the performative promise that we all must share in.

Vantage Points
The interesting thing - and it's the problem of any attempt to write about the now - is the inability to find a vantage point. Stark agrees that "many artists are dealing with utopian ideals born from science fiction narratives and looking back to a lost time of how we thought the future would be." This kind of approach is clear from the retro-futurist aesthetic evident in works by Rowena Hughes and Viktor Timofeev at Breese Little's show; in Gordon Cheung's juxtaposition of Greek and Roman mythology with a kind of computer game aesthetic; and Jonah Freeman's trompe l'oeil-images that imagine how classical civilisations of the past might have imagined the future to look like. That Freeman's works take the form of digital prints made to look like fragments of ancient parchment makes a subtle point about our own assumptions. Just as the images of the future are rooted in the supposed time in which they were envisioned; so the artwork that created them is a product of contemporary technological innovation. We may feel superior to our predecessors but the present is always a prison.
Stark says something similar. Whilst he agrees that there is a concerted attempt to move beyond the Modernist/Postmodernist paradigm, he is also wary of hasty assumptions. "There is definitely a reformation going on," he says, "but we can't see it yet. There's an unfathomable amount of information flying around and so much noise - maybe we'll get a quiet spot in ten years or so and be able to look back and see where we went wrong, again."
It is this consciousness of the inevitability of going wrong that separates today's explorations of Utopia from Modernism, but a refusal to let that inevitability result in a sense of futility that defines a move away from Postmodernism. I think it's in this that we can begin already to discern something - the shape of the argument to come perhaps.
The prognosis is still unclear. Whether capitalism is in crisis (as the FT pondered in January) or whether capitalism is crisis (as one banner at Occupy London's St Paul's camp has it), any thinking about today's systemic problems necessitates a vision of how the future could look. Or rather, a series of visions: both Stark and Cowpertwait emphasise an allowance for individual concepts of utopia in a way prohibited by Modernism's quest for purity.
But it's not only about a liberal multiplicity of visions. Today's artists are demanding and enacting a mode of critical thinking that analyses the very process by which such visions are produced. The present is the place to start this thinking. The perfect future starts with the future perfect: this is what will have been.

Tom JEFFREYS

‘Utopia', till 1st of March at Hoxton Art Gallery, 64 Charlotte Road, Hoxton, London, UK. www.hoxtonartgallery.co.uk

‘Back to the Future', till 3rd of March at Breese Little, 30d Great Sutton Street, London, UK. www.breeselittle.com

‘Immortal Nature', till 3rd of March at Edel Assanti, 276 Vauxhall Bridge Road London, UK. www.edelassanti.com

 

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Ni caméléon, ni singe

«Je pense de toute façon que les artistes sont des gens dont l'enfance se prolonge de façon pathologique.» (1)

La France a longtemps entretenu des rapports complexes avec l'art brut. Si André Breton ou Guy Debord ont célébré le Palais du facteur Cheval, les responsables politiques et culturels ne souhaitèrent pas, à l'époque, donner suite à la proposition de Jean Dubuffet de léguer sa collection d'art brut à l'état français (en échange de lui trouver un toit). Ces magnifiques œuvres de Soutter, Wölfli, Aloïse, Crépin... partirent pour Lausanne en 1971 où le conservateur Michel Thévoz allait donner un beau retentissement à la Collection de l'art brut dès son inauguration en 1976.

On peut donc dire qu'il y a eu comme un malentendu, en France, dès le départ dans la perception de cet art que l'on a déjà du mal à nommer: déraciné, visionnaire, irrégulier, outsider, hors les normes... Que l'on a également du mal à situer: cet art ne concerne t'il que des personnes au contact de la maladie, de la psychiatrie, de l'internement? Mais alors la plupart ne correspondent pas à cette catégorie puisque plusieurs ont une vie sociale, parfois familiale... Cet art recoupe-t'il des techniques usuelles comme le dessin, la sculpture, l'assemblage? Mais que faire alors de ces artistes, les ‘habitants-paysagistes' qui aménagent leur maison, leur jardin, leur environnement? Et puis certains de ces artistes se retrouvent exposés (et c'est tant mieux!) dans des expositions d'art contemporain: Daniel Johnston à la Biennale du Whitney 2006 et dont la famille vend les dessins sur un site internet, Sarah Pucci dont Dieter Roth écrivait: «Et je me demande comment est-ce possible de faire pousser dans ses mains ces balles merveilleuses...» qui est présentée par une galerie parisienne d'art contemporain. Et puis Sophie Podolski dont l'unique livre, conçu juste avant sa fin tragique à Bruxelles en 1974, est constitué d'un mélange magnifique d'écritures et de dessins et sera préfacé par Philippe Sollers (2).

Mimétisme
La parole alors à celui qui a ouvert la voie: Jean Dubuffet pour l'appellation art brut et pour sa définition, celle qui reste à mon avis la plus juste et la plus contemporaine: «Nous entendons par là des ouvrages exécutés par des personnes indemnes de culture artistique, dans lesquels donc le mimétisme, contrairement à ce qui se passe chez les intellectuels, ait peu ou pas de part, de sorte que leurs auteurs y tirent tout (sujets, choix des matériaux mis en œuvre, moyen de transposition, rythmes, façons d'écritures, etc...) de leur propre fond et non pas des poncifs de l'art classique ou de l'art à la mode. Nous y assistons à l'opération artistique toute pure, brute, réinventée dans l'entier de toutes ses phases par son auteur, à partir seulement de ses propres impulsions. De l'art donc où se manifeste la seule fonction de l'invention, et non celles, constantes dans l'art culturel, du caméléon et du singe.» (3)

Depuis une histoire s'est construite, des associations se sont constituées, des lieux ont ouvert comme la halle St Pierre à Montmartre ou la maison rouge d'Antoine de Galbert à la Bastille qui a exposé la collection d'art brut d'Arnulf Rainer en 2005 et l'année suivante Henry Darger: «La défense et la compréhension de l'art contemporain passent nécessairement par l'analyse de ses sources et la fréquentation de passerelles qui le relient à d'autres normes. Ces passerelles sont souvent invisibles, magiques, subjectives, visionnaires...» (4). Il y a eu surtout la donation de la collection de l'Aracine au LaM de Villeneuve d'Ascq en 1999, première tentative d'intégration d'une collection exemplaire d'art brut à un musée abritant jusque là une collection d'art moderne et contemporain. Une extension architecturale a été construite pour abriter cette collection, la faire vivre et l'enrichir et depuis, c'est la seconde exposition où une collection privée d'art brut vient ‘épouser' le fonds du LaM.

Il y avait eu en 2011 la collection Eternod & Mermod, cette fois c'est la collection de Korine et Max E. Ammann qui est présentée (5), elle est toute aussi exemplaire (y aurait-il une spécificité suisse dans le fait de collectionner l'art brut ou est-ce toujours le rayonnement de la collection de Lausanne qui fait que?). La collection s'ouvre sur une vitrine qui montre des poupées habillées en silvesterklaus du canton d'Appenzell de Jakob Müller (1922-2005) et peut aller jusqu'à ce bel ensemble de dessins de Frédéric Bruly-Bouabré découvert lors des ‘Magiciens de la terre', soit une définition de l'art brut entre le populaire, le naïf jusqu'à l'art contemporain africain ou l'art médiumnique car c'est à la suite d'une révélation divine que l'artiste ivoirien «celui qui n'oublie pas» va se consacrer à l'élaboration de l'alphabet Bété.

Refuseur
L'histoire de Marcel Storr (6) recoupe en de nombreux points celles d'autres artistes de l'art brut: enfant abandonné, placé dans des fermes où il est régulièrement battu, condamné à l'illettrisme, il finira «cantonnier d'empierrement saisonnier des parcs et jardins de la ville de Paris» ou plus simplement balayeur au bois de Boulogne. Entre 1930 et 1975, pendant ses moments libres, Marcel Storr va réaliser une soixantaine de dessins à l'architecture visionnaire: d'abord exclusivement des églises puis des mégapoles. Il y a là plusieurs des caractéristiques de l'art brut: une sorte d'entêtement, dans le format et le choix de la technique: un dessin au crayon, sans composition bien entendu puis on remplit l'espace de façon quasi obsessionnel: «Dessiner, y a que ça que j'aime!» on passe aux couleurs à l'encre et enfin un vernis que l'on égalise au fer chaud, mais surtout pas sur le ciel, pour clore le tout on signe non pas une fois mais deux et puisque le monde l'a rejeté, la volonté pour lui de se placer dans un autre monde, supérieur: «Quand Paris sera détruit par la bombe atomique, le président des Etats-Unis viendra me voir et on pourra tout reconstruire avec mes dessins.» L'histoire de sa découverte est toute aussi exemplaire puisque c'est la femme de Marcel Storr, concierge, qui va prier Liliane Kempf, responsable d'une association de parents d'élèves de bien vouloir examiner les œuvres de son mari. Marcel Storr, enfermé dans son monde refusera de laisser sortir ses dessins jusqu'à ce que Liliane Kempf propose, en échange, de lui laisser sa carte d'identité. Comme souvent avec ces artistes, il y a une forme de paranoïa à communiquer: «Ils ne veulent rien recevoir de la culture et ils ne veulent rien lui donner. Ils n'aspirent pas à communiquer, en tout cas pas selon les procédures marchandes et publicitaires propres au système de diffusion de l'art. Ce sont à tous égards des refuseurs et des autistes.» (7)

Galerie
Paris connaît depuis 2005 sa première galerie d'art brut aujourd'hui située dans un passage du Marais. La galerie Christian Berst a organisé une série d'expositions de qualité, souvent accompagnées de publications, elle a en réserve quelques classiques de l'art brut: Aloïse, Darger, Lobanov, Scottie, Wölfli... Souvent questionné sur la ‘pureté' d'une entreprise commerciale dans le monde de l'art brut, Christian Berst a toujours répondu par l'intégrité et la sincérité de son travail, n'hésitant pas à citer Dubuffet lui-même qui recommandait aux artistes qu'il suivait de ne pas hésiter à vendre leurs œuvres. En quoi d'ailleurs l'art brut devrait-il échapper aux règles qui régissent le marché de l'art? L'art brut devrait-il être moins cher? «Cela dit, il est vrai que, même dans ce domaine, il y a risque d'institutionnalisation, de récupération et de commercialisation. Mais c'est une fatalité anthropologique, si je puis dire: l'humanité oscille entre l'ordre et le chaos, entre l'organisation et la subversion, entre la routine et l'innovation. Il est bon que les artistes et les animateurs dans ce domaine soient confrontés à ce danger, à cette tentation, à ce défi.» (8)
La galerie présente actuellement une remarquable exposition des dessins ou plutôt des plans de Jean Perdrizet (1907-1975). Ce savant-inventeur était persuadé de décrocher un jour le prix Nobel, au revers des dessins des textes ‘scientifiques' il écrivait des conseils ou plutôt des invectives aux lecteurs du CNRS, de la NASA. Elle sera suivie par une exposition de Dan Miller, artiste américain, autiste profond dont les dessins, basés sur des accumulations de lettres et mots, évoquent Wols et finissent par constituer un univers mêlant en autant de strates écriture et peinture. (9)
Beaucoup ont gardé en mémoire l'exposition Open Mind (Gesloten Circuit) dans le Musée d'art contemporain de Gand situé alors dans le Musée des beaux arts en 1989. On commençait par une accumulation de plâtres académiques et on finissait par une collection de dessins d'art brut, entre temps dans la salle aux murs peints en rouge profond, une inscription de Susan Sontag: «Real art has the capacity to make us nervous».

Yves BROCHARD


(1) Elfriede Jelinek, Christine Lecerf, ‘L'entretien'. éditions du Seuil 2007.
(2) Sophie Podolski, ‘Le pays où tout est permis', Belfond 1973, les œuvres de Sophie Podolski sont visibles sur le site du Montfaucon Research Center, www.montfaucon.eu/
(3) Jean Dubuffet ‘L'art brut préféré aux arts culturels', octobre 1949
(4) Arnulf Rainer et sa collection d'art brut, La maison rouge-fondation Antoine de Galbert, 23 juin - 9 octobre 2005
(5) ‘Marcel Storr, bâtisseur visionnaire', Pavillon Carré de Baudouin, 75020 Paris, 16 décembre - 31 mars 2012, www.mairie20.paris.fr
(5) ‘Collectionneur de Mondes, œuvres d'art brut de la collection de Korine et Max.E. Ammann', LaM Villeneuve d'Ascq, 14 février - 13 mai 2012, www.musee-lam.fr
(6) Entretien avec Michel Thévoz in ‘Art Brut et Compagnie la face cachée de l'art contemporain', Halle Saint-Pierre, La Différence 1995
(7) Op.cit note 6
(8) ‘Dan Miller, Graphein', Galerie Christian Berst, 75003 Paris, 22 mars - 19 mai 2012 www.christianberst.com
A noter: Le musée Dr Guislain à Gand organise le jeudi 26 avril une journée ‘Outsiders op de kaart gezet. Een verkenning van outsiderkunst in Europa', www.museumdrguislain.be

 

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