Gilles Barbier, Julien Berthier, Pim Blokker, Richard Jackson, Martin Kersels, Paul McCarthy, Theo Michael, Lucie Picandet, Lamarche-Ovize, Richard Prince, Jean Tinguely, Winshluss
« Art must take reality by surprise » Françoise Sagan said. With the Heroes exhibition, the opposite has occurred. Imagined before the attacks in Paris in November 2015 and the death of David Bowie, reality suddenly caught up with Heroes. Current affairs, life and death invited themselves to art’s table, confirming their porosity and giving our proposal a new acuteness. Although it resonates with the present time, Heroes nevertheless has nothing to do with homage or commemoration. Quite the contrary. Committed in its own way, placing great emphasis on drawing, it is a variation on the portrait and on the period, on the return of the figure, a suspect moment, in the field of art, on the representation of the hero and its manifestations in the art of today. Who are the heroes of contemporary drawings and artists? And what do they say about us and our world? Heroes. This title/theme with martial overtones punctuates the history of the arts: from the wall paintings of acts of bravery to the portraits of the powerful of the Renaissance, from the celebrities in Warhol’s series to the superheroes of American comics, the figure of the hero travels through time and across media. What does it look like, on paper, in 2016? At first glance, the contemporary hero seems to have lost his panache and his powers, replaced by his febrile double, the antihero, over-represented in the artworks gathered together. At worst, he seems tired, at best, very discreet, without qualities. Enlarging the family of his wacky characters, ageing superheroes (L’Hospice, 2002) and other mini clones resembling him (Pawns), Gilles Barbier attempts the impossible by showing La Femme Presque Invisible, the feminine double of the hero imagined by H.G. Wells in 1897. Meanwhile, comics artist Winshluss makes a White Man with the head of Toto evolve in a nocturnal and empty Tokyo. Overcome, battered, fragile, his giant looks like a loser, a zero… Dutch artist Pim Blokker offers a singular gallery of portraits. With a contrite air, feigned and as though bogged down, his models (man, woman, cloud, ghost, chimney…) seem ridiculous, if not absurd. Tragicomic, like the blackfaces and smileyfaces which form the large diptych by the American artist Richard Jackson, which question our duality. Masks are also present in the new series of collages by Martin Kersels, LP Series, never before shown in Paris. The Californian artist has covered a group of old record covers with a fine layer of wood. Only the singers’ eyes are visible. Incognito, they look at us looking at them. In a comic strip very much her own, Lucie Picandet, the recipient of the Bourse Révélations Emerige 2015, features a hero with an unbridled imagination and appetite. A self-portrait? A metaphor of the artist at work? One thing is certain, the figure of the artist is never far away, the implicit hero of most of the artworks presented: we find him prey to doubt and questioning, tossed about by the wild waves of the great art market, in the seascape series drawn and doodled by Theo Michael, an artist of Greek extraction living in Mexico. And if it is not the artist, it is people close to him, his references or his mentors who lead the way. Paul McCarthy takes a bite out of his Parisian art dealers in two drawings created on the occasion of the presentation of his monumental sculpture Innocence at the gallery in 1994, whom he makes say: « We must be the sculptures! » Jean Tinguely pays homage to his companion, the artist Niki de Saint Phalle, in a collage from 1989, which multiplies visual and biographical elements. Richard Prince, with the New Figures series, continues to cloud the issue, redrawing printed images excerpted from old erotic magazines, the bodies, faces and genitals of anonymous heroines, with a distinct Picasso-infused style. Closer to home, in their works, the artist duo Lamarche-Ovize do not hesitate to abundantly name the personalities who form the basis of their practice or who cross paths with them, no matter their status or their notoriety. William Morris, Rihanna, someone beside them on the metro, Christophe or Velasquez find themselves any old how on the paper, immortalised in the shape of a puzzle. A kind of open and pop homage, amused and aloof, which finally characterises rather well the treatment and the figure of the hero in the art of today, and which we find in a series of watercolours by Julien Berthier called Pigeonner. In it, the artist faithfully depicts three public sculptures by Auguste Cain, Marino Di Teana and Volti on which vulgar pigeons have come to rest, humorously and wittily accomplishing the definitive toppling of statues.