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 forte and their rootedness, the specificities in their differing and now and then overlapping plastic practices and the swirling and infrequently hugely hybridised conceptions entertained in regard to such practices. hence does research diversity from dialogue of the feisty, Fluxus-inspired, free-spirited funkiness of Ben Vautier’s paintings to a number of the modes of transcendence of trauma and haunting worry generated via the phenomenal 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 endless a-signatures of Claude Viallat’s experience within the sheer pleasure of a poiein of self-reflexive shade, the powerfully based and muscular disarticulations of Bernard Pagès’ sculpture, the nice sweep via art’s historical past implied through Jean-Pierre Pincemin’s chameleon-like gestures, the large swirling programme of socio-psychological research the humanities of Annette Messager and Sophie Calle provide of their notably detailed 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 realm’
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Extra resources for Contemporary French art. / 1, Eleven studies
This said, however, Louise Bourgeois’ interwoven bodymind topologies draw their ongoing power not simply from private circumstance and a seemingly bottomless wellspring of personal, lived experience. Her work leaps beyond the autobiographical, buried deep as it is in the bios and the psyche of selfhood. It is immersed in humanity’s “great founding myths”, as Bernadac has suggested. Its power is transpersonal, universal beyond, though rooted in what Deborah Wye terms “a drama of the self”; it speaks to our fears and our desires, our repressed truths and our phantasms, our inadequacies and our solitarinesses; to our teeming stock of remaining feasibilities and our capacity for an often improbable self-creation.
La Destruction du père (1974) is, of course, one of Louise Bourgeois’ most celebrated and striking expressions of an angst both visceral and psychic, but it has raw antecedents, such as her adolescent cutting up of a bread father figure, just as it will have a full range of symbolic follow-ups: the 1988 orange peel figure, an elementary, even discreet yet deeply lived stab at her father’s cruel public sexual diminishment of his young daughter; the 1990 Rabbit, eviscerated, hanging, personal, 52 Sublimation, the Irreducible and the Sacred: Louise Bourgeois mythical, self and other merged; the strange 1998 Le Père, at once abstract, uncontextualised beyond its title, yet hinting simultaneously at patriarchal power and, perhaps, its ultimate judgement by a force higher-seated, higher-situated.
MCT, 44-54): how can one, for example, not admire the sheer quirkiness combined with the sheer discipline of the fabrication; how can one not move from one colour combination to another without sensing the mystery, at once sensual, aesthetic and, if I may put so oddly, mathematically spiritual, of the various effects produced; how can one resist that rapid slippage through the mind’s eye of so many other paintings one has seen and which, instantaneously, reveal the vibratory interference and unique3 The designation Morellet ideally aspires to, he tells Alexandra Reininghaus in a 1989 interview.