Gérard Garouste


This exhibition of Gérard Garouste’s new work consists of both paintings and sculpture, along with gouaches, engravings, and terra-cotta reliefs. The sculptures, unshown until now, reveal Garouste’s fondness for this form. It is striking, from the very first view of the large paintings and sculptures, to see the evanescent long-lined figures (to which Garouste had accustomed us in his earlier series of paintings on the Divine Comedy) dissolve even more in the present series, and then to see them taken out of their frames and materialized in three-dimensions. The oneiric forms—spectral silhouettes from some imaginary bestiarium called up from a reading of Dante or from the Old Testament—return in the sculptures, animated with a strange and slightly fearsome life. Their three-dimensionality gives them a disturbing presence. In the paintings, on the other hand, the figures—drowned in the color and outlined like watermarks—more clearly retain an imaginary and distant character dependent on their status as illusions.

For Garouste, the use of more traditional media, requiring the artist’s touch, signifies a return to the sources of art. Garouste does not undertake this in a spirit of nostalgia, or of appropriation, but in conscious opposition to the current trend of object-art—out of a desire to create the conditions for a renaissance of an anachronistic art. His paintings are painstakingly executed in oil, and the mixing of pigments carried out with extreme care. The terra-cotta from which the sculptures are made, bonded to wrought iron or bronze, provides for him a manual and sensual contact with clay—the earth from which God fashioned man.

In his quest for the absolute, the absolute painting, it is not surprising that Garouste turns toward the Bible, “the absolute book,” as he calls it. Quotations from Isaiah are inscribed on some of the gouaches; still, the works themselves, untitled, refrain from the slightest illustration. They seek to be timeless. There are no anecdotes to be deciphered among the sculptural figures, which have an affinity with Giacometti’s. Rather, these works express a condition of the soul, tormented but sustained by a fundamental internal struggle, one touched upon in the words of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”

Anne Dagbert

Translated from the French by Warren Niesluchowski.