TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT April 2012

ARTIST’S PORTFOLIO: M. CHAUDUN’S GARDEN

Jean-Luc Moulène, untitled, 1992, color photograph, 47 1/4 x 61". All works from the suite M. Chaudun’s Garden, 1991–2006, from the series “Fénautrigues,” 1991–2006.

LE NÔTRE HAD IT EASY. With the grand machinery of the Sun King at his fingertips, the legendary designer handily achieved the ancien régime’s most sweeping and autocratic transformation of the landscape: the gardens of Versailles. Typology, natural history, and authority converged in axial paths and forced perspectives, exotic trees and orchestrated fountains.

Against this living archetype of luxurious perfection, there is the far rougher and more modest garden of one Victor Chaudun—a twentieth-century successor to Le Nôtre and director of the arboretum at Versailles. After Chaudun retired from his post, he tended his own personal garden in the southern region of Lot. And when Chaudun passed away in 1990, the Parisian artist Jean-Luc Moulène began photographing his friend’s botanical creation. Its horticulture left to run wild, the once edenic terrain has fallen into a phantasmal state between cultivation and ruin.

Moulène, who is the subject of a survey show currently on view at Dia:Beacon, in Beacon, New York (through December 31), here presents a selection from an archive of nearly seven thousand photographs of the French countryside, taken between 1991 and 2006. M. Chaudun’s Garden traces both seasonal and perspectival shifts over the course of this period. Wraithlike, vegetal profusions give way to bare branches or verdant and misty hills. No picture of regal control or administrative efficiency, this garden is a ground of digging, wrestling, and abandon. And if Moulène has been known for the insistent frontality of his photographs—he has since the 1980s deployed blank backdrops and obdurate monochromes—here the pictures tip their high horizon lines so that you almost feel as if you are looking down on, or into, the land. The photographs seem to be sinking. As they attempt to impose a visual system on a natural one, each order threatens to unravel the other.

Jean-Luc Moulène, untitled, 1995, color photograph, 47 1/4 x 61".

Jean-Luc Moulène, untitled, 1992, color photograph, 47 1/4 x 61".

Jean-Luc Moulène, untitled, 1998, color photograph, 47 1/4 x 47 1/4".

Jean-Luc Moulène, untitled, 1996, color photograph, 47 1/4 x 61".

Jean-Luc Moulène, untitled, 1994, color photograph, 31 1/2 x 39 3/8".

Jean-Luc Moulène, untitled, 1994, color photograph, 31 1/2 x 39 3/8".

Jean-Luc Moulène, untitled, 2006, black-and-white photograph, 55 1/8 x 55 1/8".

Jean-Luc Moulène, untitled, 2000, color photograph, 47 1/4 x 59".