John M. ARMLEDER, JEAN CARZOU -
“… This is why I stubbornly celebrate artists judged to be minors, Jean Carzou for example because I think that fundamentally Malevich without Carzou would not exist. To tell the truth, I have a capacity for sympathy for just about everything… I don’t believe in the question of good and bad taste. Somehow, these forms of disqualifications alert me to the extent that I am convinced that these are the same reasons or the same ingredients that will make it possible to celebrate or discredit such and such a work. For an artistic object it is the same mechanics, the same scheme. Between the added value and the diminished value, the judgment proceeds from exactly the same principles, there is no difference”. John Armleder. Contemporary creation. Flammarion.
The young Karnik Zouloumian, born in Syria in Aleppo in 1907, moved to Egypt with his Armenian family, pursued brilliant studies in Cairo. At 23 he went to Paris to study at the Special School of Architecture, he graduated in 1930, made “circles and squares” in Montparnasse, became Jean Carzou for the sake of integration. In a very short time with his dreamlike sets of the Comédie Française, the theater sets of the 1950s, the artisan painter Jean Carzou became one of the greatest figures in the world of art: a “house hold name”. In 1955, the magazine Savoir des Arts ranked him among the ten most important painters of his generation.
His graphic style, sharp, acquires immense popularity – we are in the 60s and 70s – from which no French artist will benefit since. Spearhead of figuration while at the same time Georges Mathieu and Victor Vasarely reign over abstraction. It is to these three “trademark” artists, to these three creators of style that the RTL radio station proposes to design the new design of the rue Bayard facade in Paris. In 1972, the RTL station chose Vasarely’s Op Art motif, which clearly illustrates the 1970s, the technophilia and modernity of the Georges Pompidou years.
John M Armleder (born in Geneva in 1948) “Founder in 1969 in Geneva, with other artists close to Fluxus, the Ecart group and the gallery of the same name, presents in the JL Richard NY gallery this model by Jean Carzou, forgotten for forty years: a moucharabieh, an ornamental architectural element that has stood the test of time, where we find the motifs of the dreamlike machinery of his paintings. A mesh that contemporary architecture has vindicated, this concept is becoming omnipresent in architecture, like the aluminum skin of the new Museum (SANAA 2010).
John M Armleder has developed an incredibly subtle and complex body of work. His approach is based on the idea that things have already happened and that his art is developed with the one that preceded it. He works by strategy of blurring and de-hierarchization, reconsiders here the work of Jean Carzou, takes the risk of reassessing the work of this artist now relegated to the rank of minor painter after the glory of the sixties and seventies. Some explain this disrepute by economic necessities that led to its replacement, John Armleder thinks that one can always find good reasons to celebrate a work and just as well good reasons to disqualify this same work. It is the cultural constructions and not just the commercial ones that have value as an estimate. Here we find the principle of equivalence dear to Robert Filliou.
John M Armleder chooses to associate “Rounds and squares” by the very young Carzou with “Pour and puddle painting”. The mtapepaintings, unknown to a very well-known artist-craftsman, then much discussed and rejected – he applied himself then to making these images of abstraction, an illustration from the 1930s – stand side by side in a trembling and a temporal space the splendid “for and puddle paintings”, their calm fury.
It will be difficult to imagine that Jean Carzou and John Armleder were contemporaries. Carzou at the peak of his fortune, Member of the Academy of Fine Arts, had committed some imprudence by condemning Picasso and even Cézanne without appeal, synonyms in his eyes of “the decadence of painting”. These radical positions earned him great hostility from the art world. This is to say the audacity relieved of all irony of John Armleder, he bets big on celebrating a loser. In his autobiography Jean Toussaint Desanti explained that the philosopher is the one who each time put the totality of the achievements, of his achievements. “A philosopher is a gambler”, he must bring his knowledge and his ideas into play each time.
No comfort and therefore no limited economy of ironists who hoard with insurance included. It will be necessary to spawn new genealogies to adjust the co-presence of Jean Carzou and John Armleder. Only presents and still very modestly the disconcerting intelligence of the very cultured John Armleder.
Made flat like puddles then raised, their execution results from immediate decisions, mixtures of paints, lacquers and various varnishes. The evolution is random under the effect of the different chemical components and their manipulation. The paintings clearly show their manufacturing strategy: a gesture by which failure, abandonment or success come to the same thing. All of John Armleder’s art defies intention, neither displaying nor programming intentions, but on the contrary and regularly bringing them into play and stripping them of their authority. One thinks of George Sand’s dendrites (which Jean Carzou could very well have illustrated) which are part of the history of natural and accidental images used or produced by artists to stimulate their imagination. George Sand then uses chance only to create landscapes, to “make nature”, “to make it true”. It is about the desire to produce images that may or may not appear to be man-made, to produce images and not to produce meaning. Things that happen by themselves, acheiropoietic images, as we say since Cicero. A modest and craftsmanship to put an end to the vanities of subjectivity. One could trace a history of the subversion of these modest ones, of the capacity of their things to act with delay. Their capacities to, equally, exhaust the ideologies which gave birth to them are what we call Art.
For the Parisian event, John Armleder paid particular attention to an etching by Jean Carzou from 1957: “The battlefield” – sometimes titled “The cannon in the ruins” – Carzou is now Carzou, well after “the circles and the squares” of the first years. This identifiable graphic design, its immense popularity is coming. Bernard Buffet’s drypoint devours all the themes identically; Jean Carzou’s etchings very freely delve into a world delimited by his imagination: warlike, theatrical, scenic spaces – resuscitated academies. Looking closely, it’s rather relaxed: scratches, wefts, webs, lineaments, mesh, even squiggles.
Scribbles. From the thousands of prints accumulated in the last workshop, John Armleder fixes the etching “Battlefield”. Four clouds at four corners above the ruined horizon. First cloud: “A single line that draws fine volutes, like that of a tiny, delicate and crazy brain, sinuously folded, ad infinitum, on itself. » Stéphane Audeguy, « The theory of clouds » 2005. Gallimard.
Curator & Art Advisor, Paris, September 2014.
Cécile Calé founded the Cercle Spiridion label with Claude Darras. Art graduates, independent exhibition curators, they are based in France in the west of Paris (Cercle Spiridion, Contemporary Art, 18 rue du Château, 92500 Rueil Malmaison). They have organized several exhibitions in France at the Château de Vert-Mont – Fondation Tuck – Institut français du Pétrole Energie Nouvelle in partnership with Xavier Douroux, Director of the Dijon Consortium and Paul Hervé Parsy Director of the Château d’Orion. Exhibitions & workshops: Lionel Esteve (Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin), teenagers are always right, 2010; Naked Nature, Ariane Michel, Ellie Ga, Fabrice Adnot, Hugues Reip, Mathieu Mercier, Philip Haas-Richard Long, Robert Cahen, 2011; John Armleder, Decor, 2012.; Gégoire Soussan, Real Style, 2013. Next: Rachel Feinstein October 2014; Karen Kilimnik, February 2015.