Having introduced the artist in 2006 at our group show «Accidents»,
Galerie Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois is happy to represent
Arnold Odermatt in France and to be following his idiosyncratic career.
From 1948 to the age of his official retirement in the 1990s, Arnold Odermatt was employed as a traffic policeman in the little Swiss canton of Nidwalen, where he still lives. Surrounded by mountains and a big lake, this magnificent and isolated spot was both the subject and setting of the hundreds of photographs taken over the years by police officer Odermatt: accidents, roads, small towns, colleagues at work, portraits. Odermatt took these photographs to supplement his written
reports, but he also took other series for himself. And while the deeper reasons for this practice remain mysterious, the quality and beauty of these photographs are undeniably striking. One day, the story goes, Harald Szeemann turned up at the little canton police station, saw the photographs on the wall and decided to exhibit a series of these accident shots at the 2001 Venice Biennale. But while accidents are the dominant theme of Odermatt’s photographs,
his images are strangely devoid of violence or signs of physical injury. Sculptural wrecks are viewed in a calm, serene landscape. The series of “Aeroplanes” that we are presenting in this new exhibition no doubt offers one of the most striking examples of the strange, unique character of Odermatt’s work. Throughout the 1970s, the artist followed the road transportation of decommissioned aeroplanes from the airport to the regional museum of aviation. The colour and black-and-white photographs that he took evoke the unexpected, poetic and almost unreal atmosphere of this last journey. As to whether Odermatt’s work is or is not art, the question is surely of little interest here. Without a doubt, these photographs touch on a number of artistic concerns of the postwar period: seriality, the uncertain border between art and life, cultural developments, and the gradual encroachments of modernity. Arnold Odermatt never thought of himself as an artist, but it is with great
enthusiasm that we plan to continue showing the different facets of his little-known oeuvre, starting next year.