Showing posts with label Jean Dubuffet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jean Dubuffet. Show all posts

21 April 2016

Translation: Back to the Origins of Art Brut

"Art does not lie down in the beds we have laid for it; it escapes as soon as we say its name: what it likes is being incognito. Its best moments are when it forgets its name."

This article by Laurence Chauvy was originally published in French on Le Temps on March 7, 2016.

For its 40th anniversary, the Art Brut Collection in Lausanne returns to the genesis of its foundations and pays homage to Jean Dubuffet, artisan behind the recognition of autodidactic and marginal practices.

After having founded Art Brut, in a way, Jean Dubuffet shaped it with his own hands, or at least, he made the concept essential until it was considered a form of art  sure, a slightly unusual and marginal form but one that was accepted and even popular. On the occasion of its 40th anniversary — the museum opened in 1976 — the Art Brut Collection suggests going back in time even further, to the year 1949 to be exact, when Dubuffet was exhibiting Art Brut — the title of this historic showing — for the first time in a gallery.

Well-located and frequented, the René Drouin Gallery, Place Vendôme in Paris met with a skeptical, even hostile public. The exception was the small Surrealist circle of aficionados. While most (164 out of 200) pieces shown at the time have been reunited because they belong to the Lausanne museum, we are not talking about a reconstitution, clarifies the museum’s director Sarah Lombardi.

Without viewing rooms, the hanging system is unprecedented: unprecedented and well put together, with an introduction allowing us to discover Dubuffet's still extensive interests in the field of autodidactic practices during that period, as well as the curiosities of his collection, like children’s drawings (in the absence of explanatory signage, we bet that we would confuse them with the work of certain Art Brut creators), naive paintings, primitive or extra-Occidental art. All this is followed by the work stemming from different psychiatric institutions in Switzerland and France. We notice that the “little story” that retraces the journey of the pieces toward the collector and theoretician, and his own journey toward the creators, is often charming and enlightening because it is made up of meetings, word of mouth sayings, friendships, and love at first sight. But it is also made up of deals — I will give you the material if you give me the artwork — which today would probably no longer be possible.  

Genius DIY Artists 

Indeed, explains Sarah Lombardi, the property laws have changed. Formerly, the drawings, bricolages, hand knittings and notebooks, filled to the brim, belonged to hospitals or doctors, who destroyed them or at least neglected them, excepting the psychiatrists with whom Dubuffet dealt on an exploratory trip to Switzerland in 1945. Today, the patients, often encouraged in their practice, are also the legitimate beneficiaries of their work. Doctors who appreciated their patients’ talent, the intensity and originality of their expression, such as Charles Ladame at the Bel-Air asylum in Geneva, Walter Morgenthaler at Waldau near Bern (his collection included the work of Adolf Wölfli), Paul Bernard at the Saint-Jean de Dieu hospital in France, or Jacqueline Forel fascinated by Aloïse’s work, played the role of trailblazers. 

However, we must state that only half of the work presented in Paris in 1949 came from psychiatric hospital “clients,” and that Dubuffet himself came out against the association of Art Brut with “art by the insane.” Certainly, children, conditioned through their learning, such as through academic subjects or life; naive painters, who took up conventional techniques and subjects; the representatives of the popular arts, necessarily tied to traditions, have been excluded from this body with ectoplasmic borders that Dubuffet called Art Brut. Nevertheless, we are left with all those who are marginal. They are inventors and genius DIY artists grouped in the current exhibit in the “And…” category — and Pascal-Désir Maisonneuve, a mosaic artist by training who created art out of the shells from the masks collected by Breton or André Lhote; and Robert Tatin, who headed a building company before creating sculptures as refined as the Breton with the bird on the shoulder; and Fleury-Joseph Crépin, ironmonger and spiritualist, who painted 345 “marvelous pictures,” the 300th of which, dated May 7, 1945, would have marked the end of the war.

The Same Mechanisms of Creation

This reinterpretation of the 1949 exhibit testifies to the taste of a man, Jean Dubuffet, himself an artists who was definitely influenced by this “other” art he defended (the Dame de Moire de Gaston Chaissac, a statue made of carbon, is very similar to some of his sculptures). But it also testifies to a unity that adds to its value. The catalogue of the 2016 exhibit includes extracts from the pamphlet published in the 1949 catalogue, a text in which Jean Dubuffet does not mess around, and where he pays homage to the creators he was exhibiting: “All the relationships we have had (there have been many) with our friends, more or less with bells, have convinced us that the mechanisms for artistic creation in their hands are exactly the same ones that are in the hands of people thought of as normal … Our point of view on the question is … that there is no more of an art by the insane than there is an art by those who are dyspeptic or those who are suffering from knee pain.”   

To see:

«The Art Brut of Jean Dubuffet». Art Brut Collection, Lausanne, until August 28. Tuesday-Sunday 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.