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Jean Dubuffet: The Deep End      

 

 

Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) emerged after World War II. A French painter, sculptor and printmaker, for Dubuffet, the more clichéd a thing maybe the better suited for him. Crude, boorish and perhaps savage, Dubuffet was known for his development of art brut. This form of art is intended to achieve immediacy and vitality of expression not found in self-conscious, academic art. To reflect these qualities, Dubuffet often used rudimentary ideographic images incised into a rough impasto surface made up of such materials as gravel, tar and sand bound with varnish and glue. His drawings and paintings are naïve and their fragmentary appearance animated much debate.

 

In the summer of 2017, the Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam exhibited work by the father of art brut. He described his rejection of academic art as anti-cultural and his pursuit of an alternative creativity led him to artists far from the mainstream. The Rijksmuseum showcased twelve monumental sculptures in its gardens on July 1st by Dubuffet while simultaneously the Stedelijk Museum is staging a selection of its own all-encompassing collection of his art. Jean Dubuffet: The Deep End assembled by guest curator Dr. Sophie Berrebi (Lecturer in Art History at the University of Amsterdam) is a collection of lithographs, paintings and sculpture.

 

While viewing the paintings and lithographs in the fist gallery of the exhibition, one can decode Dubuffet as being a relentless innovator, experimenting with unorthodox tools and materials. Impressions from foliage, perplexing configurations, mixing of gravel into paints Dubuffet proved that he could work fluidly between mediums. Almost self-taught, he was particularly interested in whatever was not instructed in academies or schools, practices and styles that were dismissed at the time as naïve or primitive. Surrealism provided Dubuffet with an important precedent.

 

In the second gallery, the emphasis is on paintings and a sculpture made during the 1960’s when Dubuffet was working on an irrational world. Here he reduces figures, landscapes and objects to a mesh of black lines against a white background with red and blue. This proved to be a critical turning point for him marking the start of the L’Hourloupe cycle, which he was to immerse himself in completely until 1974. Dubuffet challenged the aesthetic boundaries of art through experimentation. He created some of his more important works using tools such as ballpoint; felt-tip pens and hints of Surrealism crept into his work during the time. The simple scribbles on paper would then transfigure into the final piece by adding splashes of red, blue, white and black. This helped him break away from objectivity.

It is evident that Jean Dubuffet disapproved of authority. He was a successful propagandist who confronted the world with his coarse textures and his non-traditional techniques.

 

Jean Dubuffet, The Deep End (Stedelijk Museum)

July 2017-Jan 2018

 

Dubuffet in the Rijksmuseum Gardens

July 2017-October 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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