Sotteville-lès-Rouen, France

View of “Bernard Piffaretti,” 2010. From left: Poncif, 2008–10; Sans Titre, 2009.

View of “Bernard Piffaretti,” 2010. From left: Poncif, 2008–10; Sans Titre, 2009.

Bernard Piffaretti

Bâtiment Trafic, Frac Haute-Normandie

View of “Bernard Piffaretti,” 2010. From left: Poncif, 2008–10; Sans Titre, 2009.

Although Bernard Piffaretti’s painting defies all periodization from the point of view of style or evolution, it continues to unfurl over time, to the rhythm of a story that writes itself as it goes along; moreover, the activity of observing the completed works is an integral part of the creation of this ongoing tale. At Bâtiment Trafic, an industrial building transformed into an art center, paintings and drawings made between 2007 and 2010 could be seen in another light, as they played with the sun’s rays and entered into dialogue with the architecture and with one another. Upstairs, the paintings seemed to wink to Op art; each contained a succession of vertical stripes, which created interference with the rails of the building’s balustrade. On the ground floor, the effect of the square section pillars reciprocated that of the paintings, each of which repeated its image on either side of a vertical line. Two adjacent works echoed one another: One (Sans Titre, 2009) presented white squares on blue that evoked at once a building facade and the floor of the room, made of round glass blocks; the shape of these blocks seemed in turn the basis of the other painting (Tableau en négatif [Painting in Negative], 2010), in the form of a balloon or “spot.” The tondo is precisely the format that the artist chose for the new series “Tableaux en négatif,” which joined his other ongoing series of so-called by-products last year (“Dessins après tableaux” [Drawings after paintings], 1998–; “Petits tableaux [Small paintings], 1995; and “Poncifs,” [Clichés], 2002–). The “Tableaux en négatif” present details, close-ups of works that have never—or have not yet—been painted.

Avant/Post” (Before/Post), the title of the exhibition (which is taken from the text in one of the paintings, Poncif, 2008–10) thus prompts some questions: What is the value of such chronological markers once a work’s details can be isolated even before it has been painted? What is left of the logical succession connecting idea and realization? Such queries represent a reformulation of the paradox that Piffaretti’s oeuvre—filled as it is with constraint, freedom, and pleasure—has, since the 1980s, met head-on. Dividing a canvas in two and painting the same motif twice, on either side of a vertical line, in fact means renouncing originality by pushing away the origin, as much as it means refusing repetition by immediately projecting oneself into the after-the-fact.

Guitemie Maldonado

Translated from French by Molly Stevens.