Artwork of the month


June 2019 Fine Arts

Le Voyou

An exhibition entitled Histoire de l’art cherche personnages… will open on June 19, 2019 at the CAPC musée d’art contemporain in Bordeaux, organized jointly by the Bordeaux institution, the Cité internationale de la bande dessinée et de l’image in Angoulême, and the Fondation Gandur pour l’Art. It provides an opportunity to focus on the work of Gérard Fromanger, in particular Le Voyou.

Gérard Fromanger (Pontchartrain, France, 1939)
Le Voyou (série Boulevard des Italiens)
1971
Oil on canvas
Signed, annotated, titled, sized, and dated "GÉRARD FROMANGER / Série : 'Boulevard des Italiens' / titre : 'LE VOYOU' / huile sur toile, 100 x 100 / PARIS, 1971." on the back of the canvas
100 x 100 cm
FGA-BA-FROMA-0005

Provenance
Galerie Nathalie Seroussi, Paris
Private collection
Pierre Bergé, Paris, 21 June 2017, lot n° 57

EXHIBITION
Fromanger, Boulevard des Italiens, Paris, ARC, Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, 23.11.1971 – 10.01.1972

Fig. 1 : © Fondation Gandur pour l’Art, Genève. Photographer: André Morin © Gérard Fromanger

Painted in 1971, Le Voyou (fig. 1) is part of the series Boulevard des Italiens, probably one of the most emblematic in the work of Gérard Fromanger. The series was in fact shown the year it was made by Pierre Gaudibert at the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris. The galleries being unable to accommodate more, only twenty-five of the first twenty-eight works in the series were included in the exhibition, as Michel Gauthier recalls. 1 As the show was running, Fromanger painted a few more, including Le Cercle rouge, the format of which is different (130 x 97 cm, Musée des beaux-arts de Dole) 2 and Paramount cinéma (fig. 2) which illustrates the poster of the exhibition Histoire de l’art cherche personnages… The artist works primarily in series, recalling that he has always felt the need to develop his ideas in several paintings. 3

Fig. 2 : Gérard Fromanger, « Paramount cinéma », 1971

"I wanted to paint the street to live up to the reality that surrounds us, to grasp it like an uncompromising photograph"

The series is based on images taken by press photographer Élie Kagan - who became famous for his photos of the police repression during the October 17, 1961 demonstration of Algerian independence activists - taken on February 5, 1971, at midday, between 12:30 and 1:00, on the Boulevard des Italiens and the Boulevard des Capucines, between Opéra and the Richelieu-Drouot metro station in Paris.[1[See the model of the series reproduced in Serge July, op. cit., col. repr. p. [58-59].]] Like many artists of his generation, Fromanger was interested in photography and used it extensively "out of fascination[…], convenience, even laziness." 4

Detail from « Le Voyou »

Before he worked with an episcope, Fromanger transferred the negatives to slides and then projected and enlarged them, using them as a matrix as he sought to "paint a very Parisian place, at once working class and petit bourgeois, neutral – neither rich nor poor nor fashionable." 5 The goal of painting with photographs as a base is to try to limit interpretation as much as possible and to show the street, passers-by, cars, and shop windows in an almost objective way, 6 as "evidence of daily life on the boulevard" by focusing on "the most banal everydayness, in appearance the plainest, the least event-filled, the least aesthetic, the least staged." 7

This was not, however, praise for the everyday, as Marianne Mathieu rightly recalls, 8 but a reflection on the world around him. "I wanted to paint the street", Gérard Fromanger said in 2018, "to live up to the reality that surrounds us, to grasp it like an uncompromising photograph […]". 9 Each of the paintings in the series presents a view from his walk with Élie Kagan: shop and restaurant windows, newsstands, building facades, metro station entrances, advertising posters, and movie theater entrances. Fromanger thus made "life in the city one of the central themes of his work", 10 creating a chronicle of the world by taking on the consumer and entertainment society. A politically engaged artist and participant in the events of May 1968, "red Fromanger", as Jacques Prévert described him, saw a chance to rethink the world in the urban setting, the street being, in his imagination, "the quintessential place of the revolution". 11

Fig. 3 © Fondation Gandur pour l’Art, Genève. Photographer: André Morin © Gérard Fromanger
Exhibition poster "Fromanger : boulevard des italiens" © Musée d'Art moderne – Roger-Viollet

Reimagined by Fromanger in Boulevard des Italiens, the street takes on tones that change by using the solar spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green (like for L’Autre, fig.3), blue, purple, gray (as in Paramount cinéma), black, and white. "The intention in 1971 was to paint the street by opposing the red mass of passers-by to the halftone colors of the urban spectacle". 12 Even though red – a cadmium red, to be specific – is the color of the revolution, the worker, and the people in movement, it is used in flat tints and makes it possible to "represent the crowd through its common denominator, anonymity", while also painting "the tremendous collective momentum that they [the passers-by] all potentially carry within them". 13 .

Le Voyou, Paramount cinema, and L’Autre, the three works by Gérard Fromanger presented side by side in the exhibition Histoire de l’art cherche personnages…, make reference to the cinema – Un peu, beaucoup, passionnément by Robert Enrico (1971), Catch-22 by Mike Nichols (1970), and Le Voyou by Claude Lelouch (1970) were showing at the time – and allowed him to think about the world and society, specifically the world of images and the entertainment society.

Yan Schubert
Curator of the Fine Arts collection

Notes and references

  1. Michel Gauthier, "Paramount cinéma", in Jean-Paul Ameline, Yan Schubert (ed.), La Figuration narrative, Genève, Fondation Gandur pour l’Art ; Milan, 5 Continents Editions, 2017, p. 140.
  2. Michel Gauthier (ed.), Gérard Fromanger, exhibition catalog [Paris, Centre Pompidou, 17.02 – 16.05.2016], Paris, Éditions du Centre Pompidou, 2016, p. 44, note 18. Serge July, Fromanger, Paris, Cercle d’art, 2002, col. repr. p. [60-61] presents 28 works, whereas the documentary photograph reproduced in the exhibition catalog Fromanger, Annoncez la couleur !, Hommage à Louis Ducos du Haron, [Agen, Musée des beaux-arts d’Agen, 02.07 – 25.09.2016], Canens, Éditions In extenso, 2016, col. repr. p. 36 shows 27 works, though the caption indicates a series of 25 works.
  3. As he stated during an exchange, his "series include an average of thirty paintings". See Laurent Greilsamer, Fromanger, De toutes les couleurs, Paris, Gallimard, 2018, p. 98.
  4. Hans Ulrich Obrist and Gérard Fromanger, "Conversation à l’infini", in Gérard Fromanger, Périodisation 1962-2012, exhibition catalog [Landerneau, Fonds Hélène & Édouard pour la culture, 24.06 – 28.10.2012], Paris, Éditions Textuel, 2012, p. 25.
  5. Laurent Greilsamer, op. cit., p. 94.
  6. Though we know it is illusory, the framing of a photograph assumes a certain objectivity.
  7. Serge July, op. cit., p. 54.
  8. Marianne Mathieu, Gérard Fromanger, Neuchâtel, Ides et Calendes, 2004, p. 28.
  9. Laurent Greilsamer, op. cit., p. 93.
  10. Anne Dary, "Périodisation. Introduction", in Gérard Fromanger, Périodisation 1962-2012, op. cit., p. 11.
  11. Marianne Mathieu, op. cit., p. 28.
  12. erge July, op. cit., p. 55.
  13. Marianne Mathieu, op. cit., p. 25 et 28.

Bibliography

Fromanger, Annoncez la couleur !, Hommage à Louis Ducos du Haron, exhibition catalogue [Agen, Musée des beaux-arts d’Agen, 02.07 – 25.09.2016], Canens, Éditions In extenso, 2016, col. repr. p. 36 (documentary photo)

Fromanger, Boulevard des Italiens, exhibition catalogue [Paris, ARC, Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, 23.11.1971 – 10.01.1972], Paris, Georges Fall, 1971, col. repr. unnumbered

JULY Serge, Fromanger, Paris, Cercle d’art, 2002, col. repr. p. [61], n° 66

See also