ERRÓ (Gudmundur GUDMUNDSSON) (Olafsvik, 1932) - Matisse Motor, 1969
Oil on canvas - 130 x 81 cm
Galerie Sonia Zannettacci Collection, Geneva
© ADAGP, Paris, 2013
“In 2009, Éric de Chassey was exploring, at the Musée Matisse in Cateau-Cambrésis, the abstract legacy of Henri Matisse in an exhibition entitled “They looked at Matisse: an abstract reception, United States/Europe 1948-1968”.
When Gilbert Perlein asked me to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Musée Matisse by evoking the ’”other legacy” of Matisse, that which drew on the master by interpreting his iconographic repertoire, developing it, sometimes altering it, I immediately joined his project, my enthusiasm being compounded by the fact that this initiative was based on the very particular nature of the MAMAC collection where Pop Art and New Realism occupy such an important place”.
Today, we all have images of Matisse in our minds. His work has become a shared visual source, known by everyone. In the surrounding visual profusion, many artists regard the work of Matisse as one source among so many others, so that it is difficult to discern a real line of derivation. The MAMAC has decided to study the survival of Matissian iconography in contemporary artists by highlighting direct quotations from his works. Almost unquantifiable inspiration gives way to formal, explicit asserted reprises.
The exhibition “They looked at Matisse” which was presented at the Musée du Cateau-Cambrésis in 2009 analysed how Matisse’s work was received in post-war American and European abstract art. The MAMAC exhibition invites one to take a different journey. It enables one to discover the different ways of appropriating the work of the master of modernity within a figurative corpus stretching from the 1960s to today.
Although for American Pop Art artists Matisse is an object for consumption like any other, this recurrence reveals a real fascination. Tom Wesselmann very often relegates the work of Matisse to the level of a poster in his “Great American Nudes”. Roy Lichtenstein replicates the goldfish bowl in profusion.
Paintings in relief by Larry Rivers with direct reference to Matisse abound.
Andy Warhol takes up the Blue Dress in a series from the 1980s devoted to famous works of art.
In Europe, images from Matisse come face to face with popular culture with Mec Art and the New Figuration. Valerio Adami mixes Matisse with comic strips. Erró associates him with icons of the modern world. The military camouflage of Alain Jacquet hides several works of the master including Luxury.
In the 1980s, Robert Combas in France and Jean-Michel Basquiat in the United States, paid him underground homage.
Research to examine the constituent elements of painting also speak deeply to the work of the modern painter, keeping to the decorative path initiated by Matisse or the possibilities offered by the paper cut-outs. Claude Viallat takes on his colours, his waves and his windows. Louis Cane reinterprets the Blouse Roumaine with cut-outs in coloured resin. Christian Bonnefoi produces a paper version of the Back in bronze by Matisse. There are also five variations on the Rocaille Armchair by Pierre Buraglio which he had admired in the Musée Matisse in Nice. Let us also mention the Sonata by Vincent Bioulès and the version of the Red Studio by Claude Rutault.
Since the 1970s, the question of the reproduction of images and their assimilation has become central. Different generations subtly turn the works of the master in new directions which brings this issue to the fore. Vik Muniz for example reproduces several masterpieces in colour pigments before photographing them.
Sherrie Levine transposes works by Matisse to watercolour, striking at the heart of the notion of originality. Gilles Mahé simply embellishes some photocopies of painting. Patrice Carré takes several paper cut-outs made with serrated scissors and glue, playing with the decorative, sometimes going as far as kitsch. In very different registers, John Baldessari, Sophie Matisse, Christophe Cuzin and Laurence Aëgerter question the iconic power of the works of the painter. Artists such as Martin Kippenberger, Loïc Le Pivert and Gérald Panighi introduce Matisse into their respective worlds.
Thierry Lagalla, Cynthia Lemesle & Jean-Philippe Roubaud, Paola Risoli each undertake in their own way a personal reconstitution of his work while others multiply its reiterations, in the style of Erik Dietman or Wang Qingsong.
Certainly, Matisse may be used as an easily identifiable icon; but these examples transcend the use of quotation by contemporary artists.
They bear witness to a real ambiguity, beyond a mere playing with quotations and a certain form of recognition: a coefficient of irony, insolence and indifference, which tends to demystify the figure of Matisse; and at the same time an interest in the more strictly pictorial qualities of the work in question.
Within these intimate and complex relationships with the work of Matisse, each artist experiments and retains painting lessons such as the absence of hierarchy between the subjects depicted, the use of pure colours, the flattening or sinking of surfaces. “Hello Mr Matisse! Encounter(s)” thus outlines the many flowerings that the modern painter has made possible.
The majority of the works on show were produced over the last two decades. On the one hand, key figures from the years 1960-1970 maintain a real dialogue with the work of Henri Matisse throughout their whole career and it was important for the exhibition to trace these journeys through time. On the other hand, the exhibition opens up widely to new generations. Certain works have been specially produced for the exhibition, completing or renewing the view which artists might have of Matisse. At the same time, this collection of quotations and Matissian diversions was made possible by exceptional loans from public and private collections in Europe and the United States.
The exhibition is arranged according to a thematic pathway redrawing the main elements in the work of Matisse: the studio, interiors and still life, the nude and the portrait, dance and paper cut-outs. The works of Matisse referred to by the artists can be seen on video screens, inviting the audience to play at linking them together. Looking for similarities and differences between the works of Matisse and their new appropriations involves entering into the act of creation, by analysing it in order to appreciate it all the more. The exhibition thus promotes a real immersion into this dance between artists and generates a process of continuity and artistic dialogue.
Gilbert Perlein et Rébecca François
Alain JACQUET (Neuilly-sur-Seine, 1939 - New York, 2008)
Camouflage H. Matisse Luxury, Calm and Pleasure, 1963
Oil on canvas
203 x 144 cm
Acquisition purchased in 2011
Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne
Centre de création industrielle
© Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI,
Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / ADAGP, Paris, 2013
Photo Georges Meguerditchian
Laurence AËGERTER (Marseille, 1972)
(Matisse, game of boules), 2010
128 x 160 cm
Courtesy Galerie Maud Barral, Nice
© ADAGP, Paris, 2013 / Estate of Henri
Matisse for the original work of the artist