Thierry de Cordier

Galerie Des Beaux Arts

Thierry De Cordier has produced a number of works that illustrate the manner in which quotation may be used to initiate a dialogue with the spectator. Throughout this exhibition, De Cordier refers, both implicitly and explicitly, to the work of James Ensor, René Magritte, Marcel Broodthaers, and others. These artists rejected simple classification; any finite evaluation of their work still proves to be illusory. Similarly, De Cordier’s work seems both historically-based and utterly contemporary.

For L’egale de dieu (God’s equal, 1988–89), which stood in the center of the gallery, De Cordier erected a figure that wears a large woolen cape. Its head is covered, and a metal funnel is attached to its front, representing either a mouth or a nose. A lavender sachet is pinned to its breast and the feet are composed of mud-covered roots. Reminiscent of Venetian carnival costumes, as well as Ensor’s masked figures, the piece is striking in its reconciliation of disparate elements. Like a modern-day Arcimboldo, De Cordier produces works which reveal themselves as both the sum of their parts and more.

While De Cordier’s citation of other works emphasizes their relative position and context, it is also the means by which his own work is activated. Functioning on the same level is the emphasis on text and on the physical act of writing. In Attrape-souffrance (Suffering trap, 1988), the artist constructs a series of linguistic games around the object’s title. This title is written in ink and is followed by the description, “an object for banging your head against/an object to rest your head on.” In this case, the object is a torso rendered in black and mounted on wood, with a pad in the center (to bang or rest one’s head upon.) De Cordier’s combination of text and object initiates a number of possible responses from the spectator.

Another piece, Avertissements à moimême (Warnings to myself, 1988), uses text as a form of direct address between the artist and the viewer. The communication, however, is a privileged one, written in the form of a diary entry by the artist. A small wooden box is mounted on the wall. Upon opening it, one sees two panels, handwritten in ink, which describe two possible scenarios for the act of thinking (or creating). The artist may spend “entire days, doing nothing but thinking.” On the other hand, there are other days when he thinks of “absolutely nothing at all.” At the end of these days, he “can better understand the other.” The work makes the private public by foregrounding the very process of creation. It is this first step, this prerequisite for all that is to follow, that is a central aspect to any reading of De Cordier’s work.

Michael Tarantino