Bauduin - Stempfel

Troublement

Current exhibitionFrom 17 May to 30 June

Brought together for a show titled Troublement (Unsettlement), Stempfel and Bauduin bring some offbeat humor to the walls of the Galerie Lahumière. While their works display fairly distinct aesthetics, they share a taste for irony and excess, and are inspired the same critical stance toward geometry.

Bauduin’s highly unique and formally sober work defies strict definition, being located at the intersection of minimal, conceptual, and land art. Behind his approach is a desire to get some distance from geometric abstraction in order to move toward a new artistic practice that he dubbed, back in 1975, “Dé poser” (De Posit). This key concept, which has become the yardstick by which Bauduin measures his entire output, is designed to “isolate things in order to eliminate every opposition—to efface all duality—between appearance and essence on the surface of things.” Bauduin’s “de-positionings,” which can be effected on nature, on a building, or on a document, play on subtle, unexpected intellectual and formal connections, raising questions in the beholder’s mind. Take his megaliths, perceived via old post cards, which Bauduin has subverted by “de-positing” a pane of glass—here simply drawn in front of the giant blocks of stone, next to figures of the day standing alongside the stones in order indicate the scale. When a glass pane is materially “de-posited” in nature it becomes a self-reflexive device that generates not just a dialectic between the visible and invisible, but also a relationship to time and place—to a very particular history—without ever imposing a view of things. His series called Les Demeures (Dwellings) also corresponds to an exploration of sites of memory. Here the so-called dwelling is evoked in its most naked, indeed archaic, form: a block of granite with a double-sloping top. The block enters into a dialogue with a relief outline of its shape on the wall, thereby confronting the beholder with an abstract transposition of spatial reality. His Dessins de Terre (Earth Drawings), meanwhile, are scale models of actions that were either performed outdoors or are projected to occur, evoking the spare, minimalist microcosm of the Zen gardens in Japan where Bauduin has often worked. They also allude to Bauduin’s definition of the word geo-metry, whose original meaning invoked two of his favorite notions, earth (geo) and measurement (metry). Other works by Bauduin address the beholder more directly, such as the series of Châssis Évidés (Emptied Stretchers, 2012–13) which, freed of their canvases, open directly onto the wall: covered with rambling words, they distill the poetic sensibility and absurd dimension of Bauduin’s oeuvre, not unlike Duchamp’s. One empty stretcher, crossed by a folding yardstick instead of a canvas, sets the tone for an oeuvre that, with carefully calculated modesty, oscillates between measure and excess.

In a different mode, but in a related spirit, André Stempfel also adopts a certain distance from geometric orthodoxy by injecting humor into his work and flaunting his taste for the offbeat. The beholder is immediately struck by his almost exclusive use of “Senegal” yellow, whose luminous energy radiates beyond the painting. This monochromy, like Yves Klein’s, has become Stempfel’s trademark, despite occasional discrepencies in the form of parsimonious additions of blue and white. Testing the limits of the traditional stretcher seems to be one of Stempfel’s main goals—with tireless imagination he reinvents the presentation of his paintings, often conceived sequentially. Here he may he manhandle the canvas, cutting it off halfway to reveal part of the stretcher, while there he frees its from its support to reveal the back, which is covered, almost insolently, with polka dots. Stempfel also displays a marked inclination to exit the framework, thereby setting off to conquer surrounding space: numerous examples include a colored band that extends beyond the picture, or a square with a checkerboard pattern that, seeking to escape the canvas, is on the verge of toppling over. The idea of painting that must grapple with the laws of gravity is recurrent in Stempfel’s oeuvre, as also illustrated by his sculptures, notably the way he imparts life to their bases by playing on their ineluctable collapse. Stempfel’s playful, disturbing geometry is fully illustrated in a series of folded and rolled paintings were the work seems to have acquired its autonomy by freeing itself from the wall. There is an exhilarating side to the appreciation of Stempfel’s geometric variations, which constantly seek to escape their fate, the better to push the limits of their existence ever further.

Domitille d’Orgeval
Traduction by Deke Dusinbere

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Bauduin - Stempfel. Troublement