Bertrand Lavier

If you combine an orange with a mandarin, for instance, you get a tangerine. It's really a fifty-fifty mix of the two fruits. Similarly, when I paint a piano or put a fridge on a safe, the result seems to float between two separate things. One could say that my works are like tangerines.

A 1997 article in Artforum called Bertrand Lavier a “logician of the real.” The author, Pascaline Cuvelier, spoke of his “mutant objects that could be artifacts of a strange archeological excavation” and said he was “at the top of the French artistic heap” along with Daniel Buren, Annette Messager, and Christian Boltanski.

Bertrand Lavier was born in Châtillon-sur-Seine, France in 1949. He became active as an artist in the early seventies. He is best known for blurring the line between painting and sculpture by thickly coating everyday objects with paint.

Lavier was not formally trained in art, but studied at the School of Horticulture in Versailles. His studies gave him an enduring interest in hybridization. “If you combine an orange with a mandarin,” he has said, “you get a tangerine. It’s really a fifty-fifty mix of the two fruits. Similarly, when I paint a piano or put a fridge on a safe, the result seems to float between two separate things. Under the layers of paint is the real piano, but you can also concentrate on the paint as paint. One could say that my works are like tangerines.”

Lavier conceptually repositions objects rather than inventing them. For his exhibit “Walt Disney Productions 1947 – 1999”, presented at San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art in 1999, he took fragments of Walt Disney Studio drawings and produced them as three dimensional polyester resin objects. The project raises the question of whether the anonymous lines of Walt Disney employees can be sculpture compared, for example, to the curves of Brancusi.

Lavier has had numerous solo shows in museums and galleries in Europe as well as the United States. His first museum exhibition was in 1975 in Paris at the National Center for Contemporary Art, and in 1976 he was included in the Venice Biennale. He made his first etchings in 1987 at Crown Point Press. The Pompidou Center in Paris gave him a one-person show in 1991, the same year that he had a solo show at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York. In 2001 the Mamco Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Geneva, Switzerland gave him a retrospective. He had one-person shows at Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 2005 and at Centro per l’Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci in Prato, Italy in 2007.

The 2006 exhibition “Bertrand Lavier.Lumières d’étoiles” (Star Lights) at Kewenig Galerie in Cologne consisted of shaped wall pieces made of fluorescent tubes. Lavier said of the work, “I am reviving painting from the tube, using neon tubes.” Bertrand Lavier is represented by the Yvon Lambert Gallery in Paris. He lives in Paris.

-Kim Bennett, Crown Point Press

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