Francis Baudevin, The House That Lazar Built, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 59 x 59".

Francis Baudevin, The House That Lazar Built, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 59 x 59".

Francis Baudevin

Galerie Art: Concept

Francis Baudevin, The House That Lazar Built, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 59 x 59".

Francis Baudevin is aware of the historical trajectory and destiny of pictorial abstraction: Experimental and avant-garde forms of representation have not only been domesticated in the halls of museums and universities; absorbed by industrial design, they are employed on packaging, as visual signage, and in advertising—for the mass communication and marketing of big business. Abstraction—above all geometric abstraction—has a constant presence within the contemporary visual experience as a sort of “abstraction trouvé,” so ubiquitous in the panorama of consumer culture that it largely passes unnoticed. These are anonymous images, not works of art, which we recognize without associating them with anything specific.

Baudevin, however, is also aware that it is pointless to harbor nostalgia for modernism, to monitor its survival and decline—pointless to wonder who’s afraid of red, yellow, and blue, or to ponder what separates abstraction from figuration. It’s worth noting that the artist himself has described his work as “geometrical figuration.” Baudevin expands the concept of abstraction, understanding it above all as a precise operation, a protocol that has evolved little over the years. Indeed, there has always been a close relationship between industrial design and pictorial abstraction, and in The House That Lazar Built, 2013, the French artist, in his largest canvas for his modestly scaled recent show “Patterns in Sound,” has created an homage to El Lissitzky: a fifty-nine-by-fifty-nine-inch white painting marked with a large, downward-facing red triangle appearing beneath a black square, which is seemingly proportioned to fit perfectly inside it. The nine other paintings in this show follow a similar logic: Each canvas features a large-scale version of an isolated commercially circulated graphic, with the signifying logo suppressed (though it may reappears in the title). No matter how broad the field of color, Baudevin applies the paint with a brush rather than a roller. It might be significant to note here that Baudevin is a record collector with a particular bent toward Minimalism in terms of both music and graphic style. His painting technique might be likened to the way minimalist musicians play their scores, with the precision of machines—a mechanical operation that is nevertheless produced by man. If at first glance one might think that Baudevin is forcing himself to look backward, to transfer commercial shapes back to the painting’s surface, his relationship to the forms he makes is in fact best understood within the context of Concrete art and geometric abstraction or in dialogue with the work of such postwar Swiss artists as Max Bill, Olivier Mosset, and John Armleder.

It is no accident that Baudevin’s photographic reproductions of certain album covers echo the paintings: While photos mounted on aluminum, they repeat the paintings’ quadrangular format and, above all, their formal motifs. Baudevin takes pleasure in arranging album covers in pairs without, in this case, erasing the titles that, thus arrayed, create a new form of visual poetry. Bartók and Neil Young, Van Halen and Cabaret Voltaire, Bad Brains and Palace Music: musically eclectic and improbable juxtapositions. The disparate albums are nonetheless united by the abstract language of the covers, a formal repertoire made up of triangular, quadrangular, and circular matrices well known in the history of abstract painting, which multiply and propagate in the space of the gallery, leaving themselves open to any sort of association.

Riccardo Venturi

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.