Michel Gérard

Galerie Jeanne-Bucher

In contrast to those artists who a priori determine a group of hypotheses and a specific style to correspond to it, Michel Gérard began by analyzing the theoretical foundations of sculpture. For a long time that analysis was the principal object of his work; once this stage was over he abandoned all references and direct allusions to the philosophical, conceptual, linguistic, and historical implications of sculpture. And this exhibition amply showed this.

Gérard offered not just one series of pieces representing the results of focused research, but several styles which maintain strong but contradictory relationships with each other. The three rooms of this exhibition suggested three different intentions. Each room had its own specificity, but also demonstrated the breadth of the different plastic universes that can have their source in the same artist. The inflexible will shown by Gérard here consists in imprinting tensions, lines of force, and breaking points in space, charging it with violence and a heavy transference of meaning.

The first room harbored a group of works entitled Douze piéces forgées d’un cube (Twelve Pieces Made From a Cube). These are variations executed within the same paradigm, that of the cube. Each piece is cut out of a rectangular steel girder and formed by a power hammer; it is heated to the point of malleability and then worked, each one for the same period of time. The 12 “declensions” which result constitute a “field” in both the literal and figurative sense. Gérard invents a personal rhetoric with these sculptures, some of which stand independently on the floor while others lean against the wall; they may be folded, bent in pyramid or anvil form, polished, inscribed, or hammered. Though autonomous, they attract and repel one another, composing a universe of complex anamorphoses.

In the second room, Lames levées (Raised Plates) brings up other questions. Four plates of steel placed vertically, but leaning slightly, are supported against the wainscoting by a separate, thinner, piece of metal which is arranged diagonally and is roughly curved. Every piece is marked with a large inscribed circle, as if the perfection of the marking were designed to conflict with the irregular treatment of the metallic surface. These pieces have an austere, hieratic quality which is somewhat undermined by a feeling of instability; they give the impression of being suspended. The laws that govern their grouping are of a purely fantastic nature. The pieces have both a religious pomposity and an irony to them.

The last part of the exhibition does not bring strictly sculptural questioning into play. It is characterized by works made of paper; if these pieces have an obvious relationship to books, books are neither their premise nor their logical extension. Indeed, these Papiers ouvrés (Wrought Papers) do not offer the least support for graphic marks; they are charcoal black in color, made of rags crushed in a vat and dyed with iron-oxide powder. The paste obtained by this process is then placed on a frame and curved in different ways. Thus the Papiers ouvres become sculptural murals and produce an ambiguous effect. Their light weight is annulled by the intensity of their coloring, which is close to that of works that have actually been sculpted. Without being in the least bit a translation, an interpretation, or an extrapolation of the ideas in the other pieces, they are a fitting complement nonetheless.

Gerard-Georges Lemaire

Translated from the French by Jamey Gambrell.