This exhibition presents a remarkable and previously unseen ensemble of 170 artworks, including Venet’s early performances, drawings, diagrams, and paintings, as well as the photographs, sound works, films and sculptures that retrace 60 years of creation. This is the most ambitious retrospective ever devoted to the artist.
It aims to examine the different stages that led a certain young artist, of twenty years of age, at the beginning of the 1960s to seek to ‘remove any form of expression contained in the artwork in order to reduce it to a material fact’. He then went on to appropriate astrophysics, nuclear physics and mathematical logic, and took a break of 5 years before finally returning, albeit unexpectedly, to his easel. These paintings were followed by sound works, poetry, and later by indeterminate lines, accidents, random combinations, and dispersions, culminating in the indefi nite and curved lines of the monumental sculptures in Corten steel, dedicated to the urban space.
Bernar Venet’s protean work remains little known today, partly because it is partially exhibited, in certain ‘periods’ or selected in terms of a specific medium (his works made using tar, and steel sculptures, etc.). Today, it deserves to be seen in its entirety so that the public can gain an insight into the scale, ambition, complexity, poetry and simplicity of his work.
When one retraces the artist’s career, we uncover the context in which it was born (the appearance of happenings in 1959, Nouveau Réalisme [New Realism], Fluxus and the Nice School in the 1960s, the ‘invention’ of minimal and conceptual art in the United States, where Bernar Venet settled as early as 1966), as well as the relevance and quality of its creation. This is the aim of this retrospective.
The exhibition is curated by Thierry Raspail.
Nom de l'artisteBernar Venet
Born in 1941 in Château-Arnoux-Saint-Auban, Bernar Venet has been living between the US and France since 1966.
His early works contained the seeds of conceptual art, and he was encouraged by Arman, César, and Jacques Villeglé. He settled in New York towards the end of 1966, and he exhibited his work alongside Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, etc. A lover of the hard sciences, he developed a four-year programme, at the end of which, he even envisaged giving up his artistic career. In 1971, he had a retrospective at the New York Cultural Center.
From 1976 onwards, he returned to the arts and his work would ultimately pursue his love of mathematical formulae. He produced notably a series of sculptures called Lignes indéterminées (indeterminate lines), followed by sculptures in the form of arcs made from Corten steel, which constitute some of Bernar Venet’s best-known works.
Bernar Venet's research into materiality, of that thing “there”, directly, without discourse, freed from all “metaphysics”, and his taste for experimenting led him early on to consider the traditional constituents of an artwork in a new fashion in a quest for univocality