For this last column of the season, and since it’s festival time, I would like to pay honor to one of the most amazing and surprisingly underestimated artists of the second half of the 20th century. His name is Gérard Gasiorowski, and the Fondation Maeght, at Saint-Paul-de-Vence, has chosen his work as the subject of this summer’s major exhibition.
It includes Arc de triomphes and other Tours or Ruelles that Gasiorowski called his « Croûtes. »
A tart with the juice of excrements, painted in his « regressive » period in the late 1970s.
An Ex-voto collage that, in its dryness, brings to mind Braque or Juan Gris.
An untitled acrylic of 1976, a work on line and color where one senses the temptation of Picasso.
Another, Suzanne et le vieillard, a variation on shadow and light, whose careful classicism was unequalled at the time, in 1972.
Ironic Cérémonies, in homage to Cézanne or Homer.
A C’est à vous Monsieur Gasiorowski, the title like a Courbet, colored like a Picabia, inspired by Lautréamont.
The nine tiny Cartes postales heightened with acrylic that, like the Maison de Margot, undated and greenish, hark back to Mondriaan before his passage to the abstract. .
The panoramic frescoes, a challenge to easel painting and to its framing, almost impossible to show, overflowing everywhere, sumptuous — « Stances, » 40 meters; « Chemin de papier, » 50; « Hommage à Manet, » 10.
Here, indeed, are all the faces of an artist who felt it his duty never to confine himself to a unique style, for he considered it a misfortune to have a name, one to which he would be ascribed.
He painted counter to his name, as Olivier Kaeppelin comments in the preface of the catalogue.
Writers are the ones who, usually, are tempted to take on a double name, a triple name, a name crossed out and elusive, a pseudonym.
Here, Pessoa is a painter; Ajar is called Worosis Kiga, GXXS or even Andy Warhol ; the name of the artist is either no one or many, which amounts to the same thing. And it’s incredible to see how such a short life (Gasiorowski was born in 1930 and died in 1986, and even then, like Racine or Valéry, he spent several years of this life in silence) could have been the scene of so many adjustments and, in truth, so many artists who came not to converse, but to wage war within the same body, in a dark and definitive plurality — indeed, the devil, he who always denies, the beautiful and dazzling spirit of division!
Through this retrospective, one will discover a man who, like Kant of the third « Critique, » believed that the main business of art is not beauty but thought.
One will discern a reader of Heidegger’s text on « the shoes of Vincent Van Gogh, » defending, like the author of Paths That Lead Nowhere, the seriousness of painting and the virtue the work possesses, when it sticks to this contract of truth, to free us of our thoughts that are automatic. -What do we call thinking? To know, or to be reborn?
One will perceive it, when Gasiorowski combines in one scene Manet’s asparagus and this «rain of paint» he once told writer and critic Bernard Lamarche-Vadel (his friend and mine, probably the first to have mentioned him to me) « struck him » the moment he entered the Lascaux grotto where, lying on his back, thunderstruck, he took in the bisons there. One will see it, I say, as part of a new era, without beginning or end and, in reality, without History, where the idols of Prehistory can blend with the icons of postmodern performances: an unruly and antedated time; a time no longer ruled by succession but by resurrection; a time where one no longer awaits the hour of judgment, to not only dream of the make-believe museum, but to make it.
And then, in this final period, shortly before the sudden death he nonetheless seems, like so many artists, to have sensed imminent, in his work, secretly arranged, one will see him offer pieces that, suddenly, are pure acts of presence, where one seems to hear Saint John’s laconic «Come and see», taken up by Winckelmann, who made it the actual programme of art of the modern ages. One will see it in >Le chemin de peinture, for example, in this admirable, previously mentioned fresco that has been sleeping in the cellars of the Fondation for twenty-five years, addressing a final salute to this beauty he sought in his innermost self and that returned to him, just before the last hour, like a regret now fulfilled.
Adrien Maeght defended Gasiorowski when he was alive.
He deserves thanks for honoring him thus, and with such power, nearly thirty years after his death.
The dead, the poor dead.
We are the tombs of our dead.
Although, in the words of another artist, silently cited in at least one of the self-portraits, with or without a hat, punctuating the exhibition, we should not overestimate the death of Gasiorowski either: the happiness and the anger of painting intact, the lively and wild art, the untouched virtuosity that leaves one speechless – that’s it, you see.