Bertrand Lavier

27.11.2014 | 31.01.2015

Massimo De Carlo is proud to present Lièvre A La Royale/Walt Disney the first exhibition of the French artist Bertrand Lavier in its London gallery.

Bertrand Lavier’s practice makes key use of irony and humour: the artist is on a constant, light-hearted, investigation of art itself. The analysis of the medium and of the gesture is explored among the relationship between the pictorial element and object-hood.

The artist calls his bodies of works chantiers (worksites in French), meaning that they are in constant evolution. The questions that are raised through his works adapt every time to a new context: what is relevant here is the process rather than the answer itself. The title Lièvre A La Royale references in fact to the most complicated and long recipe to cook hare. As put by the artist: ‘it is the best way to cook and eat hare. Making a piece of work for me is similar to cooking hare: long, complicated but wonderful in the end’.

Lièvre A La Royale/Walt Disney showcases a selection of works, made specifically for this exhibition, that are partoftwooftheartist’smosticonicchantiers: theWaltDisneyProductionsandtheMirrorPaintings.

Bertrand Lavier started creating the Walt Disney series in 1984: each work of this series is in fact numbered: in Lievre A La Royale/ Walt Disney the works on display are those from number 11 to 17. The artist was inspired by a comic strip that appeared in 1977 in which Mickey Mouse and his spouse Minnie visit a museum of modern art. The artist was so fascinated by the clichéd paintings that appeared in the comic, which Walt Disney had created in order to mimic modernist paintings, which he decided to photograph them and reproduce them in life size. In these colourful canvases the artist plays with the mediums of photography and painting: hiding beneath what appears to be a hand made painting is a meticulous and semi-industrial process that uses different materials and techniques such as ink-jet printing on canvas and silk screening. Here the artist transports the fictitious and whimsical world of Walt Disney into the gallery space, redefining the borders between fiction and reality, thought and action, gesture and medium.

The medium the artist focuses on in the Mirror Paintings series is that of the brushstroke. Here Bertrand Lavier covers three mirrors with silver brushstrokes, questioning the significance of the gesture and the medium itself in a contemporary context whilst at the same time reflecting upon how it was used by artists he admired such as Vincent Van Gogh and Roy Lichtenstein. Each painting is named after a mineral water source: the smaller ones are Volvic and Wattwiller whilst the larger mirror is called Chateldon as the rare, naturally sparkling water. By doing so the artist aims to bring to mind the effervescence of water at the source that here acts as a metaphor for the spontaneous and energetic gestural character of the artist’s brushstroke. The Mirror Paintings are uncannily puzzling for the viewer: through the use of the brushstroke the artist blurs out our reflection, allowing him once again to mock normality by transporting us into an unreal and imaginary dimension.

What you see in the work of Lavier is never what it appears to be at first glance: every piece hides in its apparent simple de-codification a series of layers that testify the industrious conceptual and crafting process that is behind each work.

The Artist

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Bertrand Lavier

Bertrand Lavier (b. 1949, Châtillon-sur-Seine, France) is a French artist based in Paris and Burgundy. As a seminal figure in the movement towards appropriation art in the 1980s and 1990s, Bertrand Lavier is perhaps best known for his readymades, created by covering everyday industrial objects such as refrigerators, tables, pianos, and furniture with an impasto layer of paint. He appropriates ubiquitous objects and images in order to reposition them as elements in a strategic critique of consumerism, deeply entrenched visual habits, and art institutions. Fiercely critical of the fetishization of the art object, Lavier considers his work only fully realized as an exhibition—as a constellation of works that generate meaning exclusively through their interrelationships.

His works can be found in major public collections, including those of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, MOCA Grand Avenue in Los Angeles, National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo in Tokyo, and Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.