View of claude rutault's exhibition 'ici mieux qu'en face' at Perrotin Matignon, 2023. Photo: Tanguy Beurdeley. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin
April 21 - May 20, 2023
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2bis avenue Matignon 75008 Paris

Perrotin is pleased to present an exhibition at 2bis Avenue Matignon dedicated to Claude Rutault, who passed away in 2022. The exhibition offers to see the actualizations of six de-finition/methods (or dm) going through the set of protocols established by the artist, from the first dm (canvas per unit) to the last work (AMZ).

View of claude rutault's exhibition 'ici mieux qu'en face' at Perrotin Matignon, 2023. Photo: Tanguy Beurdeley. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin
View of claude rutault's exhibition 'ici mieux qu'en face' at Perrotin Matignon, 2023. Photo: Tanguy Beurdeley. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin

The window at the gallery entrance features A VENDRE A PEINDRE, a humorous and caustic reflection on the commercial codes of the art world, and an allusion to the exhibition title which derives from a joke in the artist’s family: ici mieux qu’en face (“better here than over there”). To Claude Rutault, this expression seemed the perfect argument for selling all kinds of objects.

Inside the gallery, a diptych painted the color of the wall (dm 1 painting per unit 2013) spells out the artist's vocabulary, further developed in the horizontal and vertical alignments of the canvases dependence and independence boundaries 3 (1974). A column made of piles of canvases - nicolas ledoux memory (2012) and a humorous evocation of a paso-doble dance duet (1995) complete the gallery space.

Finally, the triangular painting extreme format 4 (1974), to be actualized by 3 people, brings the social implications of rutault's work to the fore; they are pushed to the extreme with AMZ (2016), a mobile world-work with more than 100 participants, evolving according to the time and location of the paintings, represented here by a rectangular painting outlining an absence.

Four prestigious museums are currently paying the artist an exceptional homage. The Musée d'Orsay is showing la porte de la peinture, a work inspired by Auguste Rodin's La Porte de l'Enfer, while the Musée du Louvre is exhibiting a work by rutault based on a Fayum painting. The National Museum of Modern Art, Centre Pompidou, is displaying ready to be made, actualized with Marcel Duchamp's Bottle Rack. The Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris, finally, is taking part in this homage by adding a work from their collection to the permanent exhibition.

"my paintings have a short life, but they have several of them."

— claude rutault

Born in 1941 in Trois Moutiers, France

Died in 2022 in Boulogne-Billancourt, France

Claude Rutault described himself as a painter; and indeed, viewing any one of his pieces is undoubtedly an encounter with paint on canvas. Rutault, however, did not paint his pieces himself; nor is he was in the business of overseeing their production. Instead, the mainspring of his practice was the writing and issuing of a set of rules, caveats, instructions, and procedures, which he called “de-finition/methods,” according to which a gallery, collector, or institution—known as the “charge-taker”—agrees to “actualize” a given work.

The first of these de-finition/methods, created in 1973, provided the germ for about six hundred unique works to follow. definition/method #1, “canvas per unit,” reads: “A stretched canvas painted the same color as the wall on which it’s hung. All commercially available formats can be used, be they rectangular, square, round or oval.” With this initial, relatively spare prescription, the characteristic features of Rutault’s work are evident: open-ended, ongoing, participatory, contractual, and mutually contingent with the conditions and environment in which it is to be actualized. The parameters, shape, color, and placement of the painting are constrained only by the ingenuity of its charge-taker in applying the rules established by its de-finition/method, the permutations and specific consequences of which cannot be controlled and could not have been wholly predicted by Rutault. If the charge-taker wishes to change the color of his painting, he must change the color of the wall as well. If the charge-taker wishes to repaint his wall, he must repaint the canvas to match. If he wishes to relocate the work, the wall, the painting, or both must be repainted according to the de-finition/method. Unforeseen varieties of works ensue, and report of their vagaries must be filed with Rutault—to his surprise, amusement, satisfaction, or, conceivably, displeasure. Whatever the case, he must live apart from his paintings if they are to continue living on their own; and at this juncture his role in relation to the work might be described, equally and alternately, as a referee of a game he has set into motion, as a parent watching his child sink or swim, or as a kind of cataloguer of the changes to and consequences of his own hard work.

More about the artist

The first de-finition/method painting per unit takes the form of a diptych, consisting of two surfaces of the same size, one canvas and one artwork, not necessarily a painting on canvas, repainted the same colour as the wall and hung close to one another.

the proposal immediately declares the insignificance of the material, the subject matter and the artist, in favour of the most important element of the painting, the identity of the colour of the wall and of the painting, and the ensuing consequences

painting by claude rutault, "living theater n°9 (julian beck in antigone)", paint and ink on paper, 50 x 65 cm - 19 11/16 × 25 9/16 inch., 1968
after being repainted in the color of the wall
Assembled reduced canvas (M)

AMZ is a “world work” with three mobile parts featuring more than 100 participants. This is the scenario:

A is the matrix of the work, consisting of one hundred bare canvases stretched on a frame, in different sizes, rectangular, round or oval, and standard formats.” Part A is in the collection of the Frac Pays de la Loire in Carquefou.

Part M is currently being taken in charge. To take charge of painting M means choosing one from the hundred paintings of A and actualizing it in the same color as the wall on which it is hung, in a reduced format and with great freedom. The rule is that the surface of canvas M is reduced in relation to canvas A according to two parameters: the distance between M and A – the further away, the greater the reduction – and the time at which it is taken in charge – the later you enter the process, the greater the reduction ratio.

Z, the third part, has not yet been taken in charge. It includes 100 papers whose dimensions will show the surface difference between each replica M and its model A.

de-finition/method :

once again, this proposal should be applied to a group or solo show featuring several artworks.

paso doble is based on the poster designed for the paso doble exhibition at the asher edelman foundation in lausanne, organised by mamco in 1994.

at its centre this poster shows a large canvas painted the same colour as the wall. around it are distributed eleven pairs of proper nouns. each time, a different artist’s name is associated to claude rutault’s, duplicating the exhibition, which contrasted various de-finitions/methods with a variety of artworks, both pictorial and photographic. the choice of artists was made by christian bernard, director of mamco, geneva.

the artwork consists of presenting the framed exhibition poster on an unspecified spot on the wall, far from the centre.

scattered across the entire wall, several pairs of small canvasses – eighteen by ten – twenty-two by twelve... centimetres – suggest dance steps. several figures and groups are scattered across the wall. the canvasses are painted the same colour as it.

it is possible to replace the canvasses by papers that follow the papers de-finition/method, i.e. on a white wall the papers are coloured, and they are white if the wall is not. there is the option of presenting several posters and creating different compositions. another option is to mix pairs of canvasses and pairs of papers

View of claude rutault's exhibition 'ici mieux qu'en face' at Perrotin Matignon, 2023. Photo: Tanguy Beurdeley. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin
Nicolas Ledoux, The Saline Royale, Arc-et-Senans (France), 1778

de-finition/method :

memory of a trip to arc-et-senans, on our return picking up three volumes. spoilt for choice. the six columns of the director’s house.

construction of a column made up of alternating square canvasses and round canvasses. this column will be tall enough not to be seen as a plinth, too short to be part of the building.

the proportions of this portion of a column are to be respected. the canvasses will be painted white, whatever the colour of the walls.

the pile plays with space, it must have the same architectural strength as ledoux’s work, in whichever site. perhaps one day display ledoux’s column and a pillar from a corbusier building at either end of a long room.

from ledoux to corbusier, to be continued

de-finition/method :

a. material, canvasses mounted on stretchers.

b. three canvasses of different shapes, rectangular, round, the last one free choice.

c. construction, each canvas is as large as possible on the wall. the diameter of a round canvas is determined by the width of the wall if it is taller than it is wide, or by the height in the opposite case. the same applies to the other shapes. the triangle takes one of the sides as a base, and as a peak, any point on one of the other sides of the wall.

d. each item is painted the same colour as the wall on which it hangs.

e. social functioning.

the piece is taken in charge by three different people, each of the three shapes is activated in turn on the premises of each of the three partners. the frequency of rotation of the canvasses is decided on at the moment of the charge taking.

the three canvasses make up the first indivisible artwork

de-finition/method :

canvasses mounted on stretchers painted the same colour as the wall on which they hang, over two walls.

- on the first wall, horizontal alignment, the space between each canvas is the same as the width of each canvas.

- on the second wall, vertical alignment, the space between each canvas is the same as the height of each canvas

Thus, apart from the personal anecdote that gives the exhibition its title, the formula “Better here than over there” is also a way to understand claude rutault’s work: a round trip that forces you to come back to the point of departure, but having seen what was in front of you, providing a point of view of the place where you started. A pendular movement in space and time. Life as a continual re-actualization, always evolving, never fixed.

View of claude rutault's exhibition 'ici mieux qu'en face' at Perrotin Matignon, 2023. Photo: Tanguy Beurdeley. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin
À VENDRE, toile tendue sur châssis peinte par l’atelier Jean Riou et accrochée en façade, chez Jean Brolly, Paris (France), 1981
List of artworks