To mark the 25th anniversary of the death of Jean Tinguely, Galerie Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois pays tribute to this major artist of the 20th century, whose estate has been represented by the gallery for the past five years. Following an exhibition in 2012 of the Méta-Reliefs from 1955 to 1959—some of which are currently on view in the artist’s retrospective exhibition at the Museum Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf and will subsequently be shown at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam—the gallery presents an exceptional collection of sculptures from the 1960s. Evocations of chaos and anarchism for some, a certain serenity and elegance for others, what these selected works share in common is an exploration of movement and sound in all forms.
“In 2012 Galerie Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois exhibited eleven Reliefs by Jean Tinguely from the 1950s, some of them for the first time, and Bernard Blistène described the early career of this Swiss artist who moved to Paris in 1955. I would like to follow on from that exhibition and that text by commenting on a few works from the subsequent series exhibited at the same gallery: these are moving sculptures and reliefs from the years 1960–63, most of them with sound. They belong to the little known Radios series (1962), which is close to the more familiar Balubas (1962–63). The current exhibition also features two later works, distinguished by their greater scale and somber aspect: Bascule V and La Cloche, from 1967.
This was a period of transition that saw Tinguely go from his rather joyous, colourful, lively and noisy machines to rather serious, black and silent machines, and which saw the demolition of Impasse Ronsin and the artist move in to the old Auberge du Cheval Blanc dance hall in Soisy-sur-École. These events were informed by and reflected the complexity and radicalism of the art of the 1960s. There is much more to Tinguely’s work than the mixture of moving sculptures and found objects, of kinetic art and Nouveau Réalisme to which it is often reduced. What today we perceive as fully constituted movements, with their lists of artists, their critics and their exhibitions, were at the time transient and malleable, as likely to disintegrate as to gel, denounced by those who had only just theorised them: Pop and Nouveau Réalisme, happenings and Junk Art, Lettrism and concrete poetry, concrete music and electronic music, dance and performance, the museum and public space, Fluxus and Dada – all these phenomena were still in gestation. Not only was Tinguely at the heart of all this, he was also a precursor, and as such, his heritage continues to resonate in many different ways today: his art was political, “gendered,” open to sound and electronics, postmodern before postmodernism, and it championed recuperation at a time when the obsolescence of machines was becoming a concern. (…) Not only did he explore all the possibilities of the found object, but he invented the sound work and was the first to venture to explore the infinite possibilities of the interactive installation. With performances that could be individual or collective, improvised or planned, constructed or imploding, and exhibitions that were labyrinthine or spectacular, Tinguely still surprises, even today”.
[Extracts of « Les machines inutiles et sonores de Jean Tinguely, hier et aujourd’hui » by Camille Morineau, an essay written for the exhibition catalogue (co-published with Hazan).]