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"Art brut" portrait
courtesy Fondation Dubuffet
Jean Dubuffet
by Sandra Kwock-Silve

Still taking us by surprise

Jean Dubuffet, the internationally acclaimed French artist, believed that life was a celebration and each day should be a party. This fall the Pompidou Center pays tribute to Dubuffet’s oeuvre with an exceptional show that is both fun and festive. The exhibition commemorates the 100th anniversay of Jean Dubuffet’s birth with a major retrospective of over 400 works that include his rarely shown theatrical installation of paintings in movement titled “Coucou Bazar.”
The show comprising 10,000 pieces opens with early works from 1942 to 1962. Dubuffet who was inspired by children’s drawings and art created by mentally disturbed asylum inmates, rocked the Paris art world with his notions of art brut. He defended works by “marginal” artists and condemned what he termed mainstream western society’s “cultural asphyxiation.” His inflammatory writings and anti-cultural stance set him apart as the country’s predominant artist/philosopher during the postwar years.
The artists’ prolific output spans a succession of periods for which he invented names. Among the many series included in the first segment of the show are his “Materiologies,” “Texturologies” and portraits of artists, critcs and collectors. All incorporated his exploration of new materials such as earth, sand and tar in highly built-up surfaces. The nearly abstract paintings and monumental sculptures from his famous “Hourloupe” series were produced over a 12-year period. from 1962 to 1974. In these almost hypnotic works, sinuous red and blue graphic lines construct interlocking cells on a white background.
According to Dubuffet, the works from his most important series grew out of a chance “doodle” he made while talking on the telephone. And he claimed that the name “Hourloupe” was simply lifted from an earlier painting named “Rue de l’Entourloupe.” In “Coucou Bazar,” Dubuffet united painting, sculpture, architecture, dance and theater in a macabre, mechanical universe.
During the years preceeding Dubuffet’s death in 1985 the artist created nearly 20 different series, all fresh and faithful to his creed that “art must appear where it’s least expected — and take the viewer by surprise.”
Jean Dubuffet (1901-85) — L’Exposition du Centenaire, Sept 13 to Dec 31, Wed-Sun, 11am to 10pm, Centre Pompidou, pl Georges Pompidou, 1er, M° Hôtel de Ville, tel: 01 44 78 12 33, 40F/30F


Dubuffet in 3D
courtesy Fondation Dubuffet

"Anti-cultural" painting by Jean Dubuffet
courtesy Fondation Dubuffet