I was reminded the other day of the work of Jacques Villeglé, the French artist whose décollage works explode off the surface with pasted, torn, scraped, shredded and repasted handbills on canvas.
I was first introduced to his work at the Guggenheim Museum in a show entitled Rendezvous which brought pieces from the Pompidou Centre together with others from the Guggenheim. Visitors were treated to great pieces by all the usual suspects of all the great movements of modern art. Or so I thought. As I rounded the corner into the Pop Art section I was confronted by a large scale piece worked on jointly by Villeglé and his contemporary Raymond Hains—two artists I was unfamiliar with. I’d not seen anything like it. It looked like a bomb had shredded a billboard and there was no discernible subject matter save for the waves of texture and explosion of color that pulsed across the canvas. Well, those and the shards of words and images that remained from what had been printed on the source material.
What got me was that the piece was more of a destruction or subtraction than a creation. The act of removal or negation was acknowledged as a viable artistic gesture. And there was absolutely no sympathy for or allegiance to the source material. It was used just as any other material for manipulation like ink, paint, clay or stone would be.
The compositions appeared to be created spontaneously and totally in the moment without any preconceived notion of what the end result would be. There was an irresistible energy that just slashed across the surface with complete abandon. And there was a total disregard for traditional subject matter. It’s as if the artists needed to destroy all that they knew in an effort to build again from scratch in a language that they could understand.
If you like this work as much as we do, then you should also check out like-minded artists such as Raymond Hains, Mimmo Rotella and, occasionally, Wolf Vostell. You won’t be disappointed.