MAMAC Nice, 2005

Alain Jacquet or the art of “Camouflage”

(article extracted from the newspaper Le Monde of 06/04/05)

When Alain Jacquet, born in 1939, began his career as a painter in 1961, it was with a play on words – and society. The Backgammon Game is a large painting (2m x 1.92m) that plays on contrasts, the blues making the yellows sing, the reds vibrate the green. A table that fairly freely reproduces the track of this game derived from backgammon, with its six triangular boxes.

We do not know if he was brushed with a squirrel-hair brush, this animal being Robert’s other definition of the word “backgammon”, but we would not be surprised otherwise: the man appears meticulous. As when he painted, the same year, the 48 cardboard elements of his Wall of Cylinders, which precedes by a year the wall of 240 cans of oil erected by Christo, rue Visconti, in the 6th district of Paris.

This is followed by the 1962 Games of Cubes, which, according to Gilbert Perlein, curator of the Museum of Nice, “anticipate the piles of Andy Warhol Brillo boxes”. The same can be said of The Last Supper of 1964 and the “Camouflages” of 1961-1964, to which Guy Scarpetta has devoted an important text (ed. Cercle d´art, 2002).Of course, it can end up boring: another little Frenchman who did everything before the others. Jacquet once commented on this state of affairs in an interview with Le Monde (May 9, 2002): “During a conference, the American painter Mel Ramos said to me:” It may be that what we have done, you, Europeans, you did it before us, but we did it better. ” They didn’t do it better but bigger, with other material means. ”

We can better understand why his works remain so confidential, on an international scale. Exposed, but still little or badly sold. Except to amateurs or a few enlightened professionals, like these two Swiss merchants who compete for them but do not sell them.

To see the two Camouflage Botticelli, Birth of Venus, which belong to the French collector Jean Coulon, we understand them. Dated 1963 and 1964 respectively, they overlap the image of Venus springing from the wave, placed on its shell, that of a petrol pump, bearing the mark and logo of an Anglo-Dutch oil group. And substitute a mythology, the car, for another, the goddess … But above all, these are sacred beautiful paintings. The same can be said of Camouflage Jasper Johns, The voice of his master. It takes up a work of Johns, the three American flags superimposed, on which is superimposed the logo of a famous brand of electronic phones, where a dog is fascinated by the flag of a gramophone. A commentary on the history of art, of which it is customary, but also a scratch on the rise of American hegemony on the one hand, a superb painting, on the other hand. It dates from 1963.

That year, Jacquet exhibited in London, where he met the “pop” British artists. The following year, in Manhattan, he rubbed shoulders with their New York counterparts. He seems to be launching: “Many works were sold at the time,” he told Le Monde. (…) Being a French artist was not a handicap, whereas, the following year, it was blocked … “. In 1964, Robert Rauschenberg won the Venice Biennale prize, symbolically marking the victory of the New York school in the hushed struggle which had opposed it to Parisians.

And then there is the Backgammon that everyone knows: the resumption, in screen printing, of Lunch on the grass of Manet. But with real characters, whom he photographed: the naked lady is a gallery owner, the mustachioed hated art critic. It was Pierre Restany, the Pope of New Realism, who wondered if he was right to do this. As a signature, in the middle of the reliefs of the picnic, a packet of sliced ​​bread. Of Jacquet brand, of course.

Screened, then screen printed, the image has various variations. And leads to the birth of a new term, Mec Art, short for mecanic art. It is this vein that Jacquet will then explore. With a few nuggets, like this variation on a painting by the Fontainebleau school, Gabrielle d’Estrée, that on La Source d´Ingres or Le Tub de Degas, which prove her love for women and artists. The following decades earned him indisputable successes, such as the hilarious Bonjour Monsieur Courbet, where kinds of cosmic bananas bowed and bowed down from another age: even a mouse in his hand, Jacquet remains a great painter.


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