Perrotin is delighted to host the first exhibition by Alain Jacquet upon representation of the Estate. This major presentation, spanning several decades of the artist’s carrer, is displayed on all three gallery spaces in Marais and was conceived in close association with the family of the artist.
Alain Jacquet (1939 in Neuilly-sur-Seine –2008 in New York) emerged as a contemporary artist during the remarkable boom in image reproduction techniques. Spanning from his first abstract canvases to his mechanically generated paintings (via silkscreen printing or computer), he continuously experimented with techniques throughout his career yielding an impressive oeuvre of various forms and media. Guided by diverse principles, Jacquet demonstrated an incredible capacity for ingenuity with the examination between abstraction and figuration; the ‘latent image’ within both collective and individual memory; and the appropriation of images from contemporary popular culture and iconic works showcased in museums. On a quest to address the fundamental laws of the universe.
From his debut in 1961 working in dialogue with American pop artists to the Mec'Art period, through his Braille and Visions de la Terre series—which anticipated appropriationist art and simulationism. Today, his work echoes a new generation of artists for whom images do not constitute a redoubling of the world but the environment in which for whom images do not constitute a redoubling of the world instead, but one's surrounding environment. Producing variation within repetition, Alain Jacquet presents the viewer with the copies of copies of a world saturated with signs : Such is the horizon that Alain Jacquet proposes to us.
When you’re starting out, you don't know what to paint. I had this Jacquet game (a sort of backgammon game) at my parents’, which was right under my nose the whole time and had a simple, geometric structure. This allowed me to apply abstraction drawn from reality. The structure of the game and the connexion with my name were interlocking. I decided to only paint with 6 colors, the ones of a rainbow, and to only juxtapose them.
As diverse in its techniques and forms as it is coherent in its principles, the work of Alain Jacquet constitutes a continuous series of metamorphoses around the phenomenon of perception. From “100% handmade” to “100% machine-made,” (1) he has explored the many ways in which our gaze is permeated by images in the age of technological reproduction.
The artist belonged to the generation that grew up with the explosion of consumption and the unprecedented proliferation of images. Indeed, it was in the form of photographic reproductions that he first became acquainted with the American abstract painters who inspired his early canvases. It would seem that each of these works, with their sweeping, abstract-looking gestures, began with a reference image […]
Based in a collective or individual memory, such latent images are found in the series that follow, starting with Jeux de Jacquet. A punning reference both to backgammon and his own name (in French, the same word), these canvases display irregular scrolls, curves and triangles in greens, blues, yellows, reds and whites that echo the colourful forms of a backgammon board. Enriched with purples and pinks, this baroque vocabulary reappears in his Images d’Épinal (1961–62). As the series title indicates, these are based on the famous popular prints associated with the town of Épinal, which his brush transposes in simplified form onto large-format canvases. It is as if the artist is reducing abstract expressionism to the status of a simple visual image, thereby alluding to the “tendency of art history books to transform abstraction into an image.” (2) Whether in the 1960s or today, to look at an abstraction, a work that escapes representation in favour of pure presence, is necessarily to correlate it to the visual references that inhabit our gaze – in other words, to see it as “an image” of abstraction.
It was also from reproductions that Jacquet learned about Pop Art at the turn of the 1960s. He was struck by its closeness to his own researches into mass imagery and impelled to strike up a dialogue with his American peers(3). This was at its most productive with Roy Lichtenstein, whom he met in New York in 1964, and whose paintings he reproduced in several of his works, such as Camouflage Lichtenstein/Picasso, Femme dans un fauteuil (1963). Here, Lichtenstein’s original canvas, itself a transposition of Picasso’s painting into his signature dots, is overlayered with a juxtaposition of sheets of undulating colour characteristic of Jacquet’s first Camouflages. This work was followed in 1963 by Camouflages involving the telescoping of highly diversely images sampled from popular culture and the history of art, based on the principles of superimposition and hybridisation.
In New York in 1964, within the art scene, there was constant back-and-forth and intervention between studios: with Roy Lichtenstein, with Andy Warhol. At the time, they weren't the stars they later became. Lichtenstein and I exchanged very rapid-fire retorts. When I realized that he had taken a Picasso in order to transform it, I appropriated his work to camouflage it in turn: camouflaging a Lichtenstein as a Picasso.
This logic is also at work in one of the artist’s best known pieces, Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1964). This canvas marks the transition from a manual practice of painting to photomechanical printing, making the artist a pioneer of what critic Pierre Restany called Mec’Art. It involves a silk-screen transfer, via a grid of blue, yellow, red and black dots, of a photograph for which the artist’s friends mimicked the poses of the figures in the eponymous Manet painting, which was itself inspired by Giorgione’s Pastoral Concert.
I wanted to maximize the technical possibilities for Déjeuner [sur l’herbe] and, given that this technique was also, in part, photographic, I wanted real actors. I was directing a still shot, making a fixed image cinematic... It was then a matter of treating this image with an explosion of dots, which made it pictorial. All the elements from the Jacquet game and Camouflages period were at once readdressed and transformed. What had previously been painted in six colors was now painted in three colors, and these three colors overlapped, rather than were juxtaposed.
Having set in motion his mechanical process, Jacquet used it on all kinds of support, applying different circular or linear grids, working from popular iconography, from photographs replaying iconic paintings and major themes from the history of painting, such as women seen from behind, reclining or bending over.
Amidst all this experimentation, the artist sometimes duplicates the grid effect by taking a subject that also has stripes (Zèbre, 1966) or when the object on which it is printed is one with it (an image of a jute bag on a jute sack, a floor on a floor, etc.), thereby revealing the fate that awaits the images of objects in the society of the spectacle.
In the early 1970s The First Breakfast (1972–78) initiated a series in which the artist’s hand reappears and in which the latent images relating to popular culture give way to the projection of fantasy images. This seminal work consists of a reproduction of the first photograph of Earth seen from space, over which Jacquet superimposes a circular grid whose centre is the Pyramid of Cheops.
Dots are everywhere. We put a period at the end of a sentence, eyes are really just dots, a line and a plan are made up of dots. We can’t avoid them. They’re the foundation. When I started to paint the Earth, it was in this same sense, that is to say a vision of the planet as a dot—just as the very first photos, taken by American astronauts who landed on the moon in 1969, depicted.
The artist next moved from mechanical grids to digital ones. Computer graphics enabled him to flatten and unpack Earth and other planets, to unfold their surfaces like skins and then to generate perforated volumes called Donuts, or elongated ones, the Sausages, which he assembled into compositions that sometimes suggest a kind of cosmic coitus or refer to canonical artworks (La Joie de vivre by Matisse for La Danse, 1995). Quite aside from their humour, these canvases also carry a kind of basic symbolism that opens onto an infinite germination of signs, symbols and images.
At the end, a return to the starting point. But a return to the starting point after having taken a slightly longer path than needed to get there, by recognizing reality, or its absence.
(1)This expression was used by Pierre Restany in an article published by Galeries Magazine in 1993.
(2)Vincent Pécoil, Wade Guyton, Les Presses du réel, Paris, 2007.
(3)As is shown by Guy Scarpetta in his book Alain Jacquet. Camouflages 1961-1964, Paris: Éditions Cercle d’Art, 2002, Alain Jacquet was not an epigone of Pop Art, but one of its major protagonists.
Born in 1939 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Died in 2008 in New York, USA
Alain Jacquet (1939-2008) started his career in the early 1960s and is known for his artworks lying between pop art and conceptual art. At that time, culture and mass consumption imposed itself in the West, stimulated by a flow of advertisements and advertisements of all kinds. To this collective conduct, pop art responds with the roundabout use of its techniques. Advertising, comics and road signs invest an iconography whose watchword is “democratization”, as opposed to elitist culture in art. For Alain Jacquet, art must fit into the heart of everyday reality. It is industrial development and technical progress that allow Alain Jacquet to develop such an aesthetic. Jacquet gradually brings the codes op Pop Art to France when he begins to use the technique of screen printing, which is a mechanical reproduction. This technique, used especially for advertisings, is the begining of the point, a recurring pattern in Jacquet’s work. Jaquet’s work has been subject of numerous retrospectives, and is in more than 40 museums and public permanent collections.
—More about the artist