Following a long collaboration with the gallerist Yvon Lambert, Bertrand Lavier is, for the first time, showing work at the Almine Rech gallery. The artist is presenting a set of works from different “construction sites”, series that he gradually picks up over time as his work evolves. A guided tour.
Bertrand, your exhibition starts with a “painting room”…
Here, I present several series of works, including new “Walt Disney Productions”. These works have classic frames, which give them a kitsch insolence. Stemming from one fiction – the one drawn by Walt Disney – they tip over to another – one associated with the field of art.
These bright white wooden frames with foliage and arabesques highlight their artificial aspect. This is the first time that you’re using frames even if they were already present in the 1947 Walt Disney cartoon Mickey at the Museum of Modern Art.
The Walt Disney Productions “construction site” started in 1984 with a series of Cibachromes, then ink jets on canvas until 2013, the year when I started painting on these prints. It was also in 1984 that I started covering mirrors with a “Van Gogh touch”. From 2011, I stopped covering their entire surface but instead would paint them with a “brushstroke touch” immortalised by Roy Lichtenstein. This way, I appropriated a fundamental gesture from contemporary painting and used it on the mirrors and Walt Disney Productions. This gesture, freer than the “Van Gogh” touch, allows me to easily follow the curves of painted motifs.
For the Walt Disney Productions presented here, the fact that the whole of the canvas isn’t covered with paint means that the motif of the serigraphed outline is left visible, showing the stages preceding the final result. Have you used all the works that Mickey and Minnie discover in the imaginary modern-art museum invented by Walt Disney?
No, there are still a lot left! There are some figurative works that I haven’t “touched” yet. At the exhibition, alongside these works, I present a new series of Cibachromes. When I started this “construction site”, at first the works were divided into two: a photo on the left, the painting on the right. This time, the paint is applied with a “Van Gogh touch”, directly on the Cibachrome. I paint on the photograph of a painting. Like I said, the way I currently paint is much freer and allows me to work loosely. I’d say that these new works have shed the defects of an era, their “schoolmasterly” aspect. And to use an expression coined by Duchamp, I’d say that their “art coefficients” are higher than those of the works that I created 30 years ago.
The gestures of this new series also call to mind the way in which Georges Mathieu or lyrical abstraction painters painted. There’s a more lusty expression…
Perhaps! (Amused.) These gestures appeared in 2000 when I showed the ink jets representing Paris shop fronts covered in whitening. Here, this room offers a voyage through gestural, abstract and figurative painting – with real “easel painting”.
You use this expression because the reference image of this painting is a signboard that is visible on French highways, used to indicate tourist sites or exceptional monuments. These signboards are planted in a décor, like an easel in front of a landscape.
It’s a picturesque vision: which is worthy of being painted. So this landscape is, literally, already painted.
They’re “high-speed paintings”, scenes and landscapes that need to be recognised from afar as they’re glimpsed quickly on roadsides.
I present a view of Sombernon, a little village in Burgundy, and Paysages Aixois. Two contrasting views, between landscapes from the north and from the south. In the view of Aix, I painted my Sainte Victoire mountain!
In the second exhibition room, you present two sculptures …
I often repeat that my horticultural studies taught me the art of grafting. This is entirely the case here.
The grafting of two car headlights into two ancient-style stone columns.
The Ford Column and the Lancia Column. Two rear lights are set in the middle of these columns. A sexual character emanates.
In French we have the phrase “faire des appels de phare” (literally, “flash one’s headlights”)!
You’ve often placed one object on another. Here, one object is included in another…
These columns are part of another “construction site” in which, for example, there’s a refrigerator set in an armchair (Philips dans Rue de Passy).
In the last exhibition room, you present Vénus d’Amiens.
Which is 24,000 years old, and which was broken into 19 pieces. I enlarged it in plaster, this material that is extremely meaningful, “radioactive”, bringing it into the gypsothèque where we can find the Vénus de Milo or the Winged Victory. It’s forcing its way into becoming a great classic. In the way that plaster consecrates a sculpture, this one ends its life by being reproduced in this material.
Plaster serves as a material for these replicas at the same time as it moulds them.
That’s right, it stands midway.
There’s more and more sensuality in your work as it evolves.
I’m aware of it, and this is going to continue!
One of your last exhibitions was called “Silence”. You’ve chosen “A cappella” for this one…
It’s a statement of the obvious. We’re practically always operating a cappella. By using this title, I underline the fact, I make it significant.
“A cappella”, Bertrand Lavier exhibition, until 15 April. Galerie Almine Rech, 64 Rue de Turenne, Paris 75003. www.alminerech.com