Contemporary French Art 1: Eleven Studies. (Faux Titre) (v. by Michael Bishop

By Michael Bishop

Ben Vautier, Niki De Saint Phalle, François Morellet, Louise Bourgeois, Alexandre Hollan, Claude Viallat, Sophie Calle, Bernard Pagès, Jean-Pierre Pincemin, Annette Messager, Gérard Titus-Carmel: 11 significant French artists of the final 40 years or so, tested within the gentle in their distinctiveness and their rootedness, the specificities in their differing and from time to time overlapping plastic practices and the swirling and sometimes hugely hybridised conceptions entertained in regard to such practices. hence does research variety from dialogue of the feisty, Fluxus-inspired, free-spirited funkiness of Ben Vautier’s paintings to a few of the modes of transcendence of trauma and haunting worry generated by way of the outstanding gestures of Niki de Saint Phalle and Louise Bourgeois, to the alyrical formalism but imbued with irony and ludicity of François Morellet, via to the serene intensities of Alexandre Hollan’s vies silencieuses, the limitless a-signatures of Claude Viallat’s experience within the sheer pleasure of a poiein of self-reflexive shade, the powerfully stylish and muscular disarticulations of Bernard Pagès’ sculpture, the nice sweep via art’s background implied via Jean-Pierre Pincemin’s chameleon-like gestures, the substantial swirling programme of socio-psychological research the humanities of Annette Messager and Sophie Calle provide of their substantially exact manners, the obsessively serialised oeuvre of Gérard Titus-Carmel permitting a burrowing deep into the opaque common sense of a true even though doubtful ‘presence to the world’.

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Bourgeois’ gaze upon the female continues in effect to bear, and to bare, the signs of woman’s long historic and still so often manifest hurt – Sainte Sébastienne (1992) shows the female body pierced by arrows –, but works like the large mural relief Mamelles (1991), echoing the 1967 Tits whilst arguably revealing the objectifying male gaze upon woman’s body parts, also seem to possess recalcitrant feminist energy in the face of such a possible gaze: the nurturing breasts provide; the female body is repossessed by its sole owner; the provocative wittiness turns lewdness and lust on its head.

Extraordinarily versatile, moving with ease from the “death” of painting (with his three 1921 monochrome canvases) to his various Spatial Constructions where we can see the connection with his constructivist mentor Tatlin (and perhaps one foreshadowed to Morellet’s 2002 Beaming π 300), Rodchenko then moves on from such “pure” sculpture to photography, photomontage, graphic design, work in film and theatre. As for François Morellet’s visit to the Alhambra, as early as Contemporary French Art 1 41 1952, it clearly provides an impetus that will not be forgotten or wasted: “This is”, he writes, “the most precise, the most refined and the most symmetric art that ever has been” (MCT, 57).

Art, as for Pierre Reverdy, a bouche-abîme, a pis-aller, a loose plugging of holes, those in the body-mind of self. Art, in effect, may be alleviative, tonic, but it provides no absolute remedy, its curative powers offer no final cure: like Sisyphus, whom Louise Bourgeois evokes in this context, repetition, beginning over, is what the doctor 56 Sublimation, the Irreducible and the Sacred: Louise Bourgeois she becomes to herself orders (cf. LBF, 160). “The artist sacrifices life to art, she will affirm, not because [s]he wants to but because [s]he cannot do anything else” (LBLA, 47).

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