“ADAMS X BURR X COPLANS X CORDEBARD X DE COINTET X CRAVEN X DHEURLE X DURHAM X FILLIOU X FONTCUBERTA X GENERAL IDEA X HAINS X HAINS X HAINS X KASTEN X MAJERUS X MAJERUS X RONDEAU X WALL X WELLING” at Passages, Troyes
An exhibition devised and produced by the Gavillet & Rust graphic design studio based on the collection of the FRAC Champagne- Ardenne, as part of the national celebration of the FRACs’ 30 years of existence, jointly produced by the FRAC Champagne-Ardenne and the Centre national des arts plastiques [CNAP].
Under the title “Les Pléiades”, an at once literary and stellar reference, the 23 FRACs (Regional Contemporary Art Collections) prepared an unusual, collective project, with the way artists look at public collections as its basic principle. Throughout 2013, each FRAC thus invited one or more artists to conceive an exhibition or a presentation system based on its collection.
The FRAC Champagne-Ardenne invited Gavillet & Rust, who have been in charge of its graphic identity since 2008, to devise an exhibition around its collection.
How are we to look at a collection? By what theme should be broach it? Thematic? Chronological? The possibilities are numerous and each one of them relates a particular story. The members of Gavillet & Rust were duly invited to write their own narrative, and broached the question in quite an unusual way, by applying to the collection the codes and systems which they use in their everyday practice of graphic design and art. So rather than focus on a “classic” display of works, their interest lay in the representation of these works. This was a decision which echoed in particular Magritte’s Ceci n’est pas une pipe… The designers devised their project by casting a novel eye on the FRAC Champagne-Ardenne’s collection, i.e. by broaching it through the prism of the image, along with its reproduction and its diffusion. They created a series of silkscreened posters in the French format (120 x 176 cm). To do this, they selected 20 visuals of works from the 788 illustrating the collection. Based on these images, the graphic designers worked out an extremely complex combinatory system, conceived with the help of an engineer and mathematician from the Zurich Polytechnic School. By using five different colors—cyan, magenta, yellow, black and silver—, they thus obtained, by way of a shrewd interplay of prints and superimposed prints, a very large number of combinations, from which they selected about a hundred different posters, chosen for their graphic potential, which were each printed in an edition of ten. What was thus involved was not a simple graphic manipulation but a fully-fledged exhibition.
Gavillet & Rust’s proposition mixes two approaches which are on the face of it radically contradictory: the exhibition’s time-frame and that of the visual communication. The former offers the possibility for people to become familiar with the work, and understand it in a specific context, conceived so as to guarantee that it will be both highlighted and critically received. The latter, on the other hand, calls for an immediate impact, in order to have an effect on viewers’ minds in an environment overloaded with signs. The graphic designers here managed to find a rare balance between these two time-frames. If the published posters are particularly effective and immediately seductive, they nevertheless remain enigmatic, requiring a second reading time to be revealed in their entirety. And the following questions come to the fore: What relation is there between the portrait of the two British troublemakers Gilbert & George made by Gérard Rondeau and Michel Majerus’s pop paintings? How does Filliou’s Mona Lisa dialogue with James Welling’s photographic experiments? Can Robert Adams’s photos adapt to Raymond Hains’s appropriations? If certain “assemblages” are surprising, the wealth of such a proposition must be underscored, with each poster created containing a potential exhibition and offering a different reading of the different works brought together on paper. If we should, above all, not see any irreverence in this exercise consisting in appropriating images, overlaying them, comparing them, reframing them, and even manipulating them, this exhibition nevertheless raises a large number of cultural, economic, ethical and sociological issues. For while reflecting the financial situation of public institutions and questioning the missions and role of these places and these contemporary art collections, this project also pinpoints in particular the preponderance of the image, by way of the printed and digital publication and the new media, to the detriment of a physical experience of the work itself. And it also touches many other subjects.
until 7 February 2014
“ADAMS X BURR X COPLANS X CORDEBARD X DE COINTET X CRAVEN X DHEURLE X DURHAM X FILLIOU X FONTCUBERTA X GENERAL IDEA X HAINS X HAINS X HAINS X KASTEN X MAJERUS X MAJERUS X RONDEAU X WALL X WELLING” installation view at Passages, Troyes, 2014
Courtesy: Collection FRAC Champagne-Ardenne. Photo: Martin Argyroglo.