Alain Jacquet: selected works from the 1960s
February 15 – March 23, 2024
New York, New York– Demisch Danant is thrilled to announce its upcoming exhibition, "French POP," celebrating the dynamic interplay of art and design that occurred in France in the 1960s. The exhibition will feature iconic works by prominent French pop Artist, Alain Jacquet, alongside works from the French designers who encapsulated the spirit of the era, from Pierre Paulin to Olivier Mourgue, Maria Pergay, Etienne Fermigier, Jean-Paul Barray, Bernard Govin and Roger Tallon, among others.
“In the tumultuous landscape of the 1960s, the rise of mass consumer culture in the Western world sparked a creative revolution, fueling a wave of innovation among artists and designers. "French POP" captures this moment of cultural transformation, where the core definition of art and design was reshaped, technical progress allowed for boundless creative effervescence and new aesthetic languages emerged,” says Gallery Cofounder, Stéphane Danant.
In response to the homogenization of daily life, a new generation of artists grouped under the term POP Art – an artistic movement born in England in the mid-1950s and further developed in the United States – took advantage of its codes and diverted its techniques. Advertising, comics, and traffic signs invested in an iconography whose motto was "democratization," in opposition to the elitist culture of the art world. The movement soon reached France, and Alain Jacquet, alongside Martial Raysse, are regarded as the main representatives of French pop Art. Through the astute overlapping of images, which he introduced in 1962 with his ‘Camouflages’ paintings, Jacquet’s work delivered unexpected and witty assimilations, playing on the collision of several registers of meaning. Masterpieces of art history, from Michelangelo to Matisse, Botticelli or Bronzino, would be layered in a camo-like manner with iconic forms from consumer society and trivial elements of popular culture.
Around the mid-1960s, Jacquet started experimenting with the endless possibilities offered by the technical tools at his disposal. In particular in his meshed series, he transformed and distorted images by playing directly with the mesh of dots inherent in the screen printing process. By enlarging the images so much so that the initial visual disappeared and only single color dots became visible, Jacquet would challenge the notion of the image as a singular entity. The selection of Jacquet's works in the “French POP” exhibition focuses on his meshed works completed between 1964-1970.
In the mid-1960s, French art critic Pierre Restany introduced the term “Mec’Art” (Mechanical Art) to designate art produced without manual intervention, infinitely replicable and made accessible to all. Through his experimentation with image distortion, reproduction and multiplication, Jacquet took part in the movement which mirrored the evolving landscape of design at the time. During that era, contemporary design thrived amidst the surge of mass consumption and the rapid pace of technological advancement, enabling the infinite reproduction of objects without the need for craftsmen or artisans, thereby broadening its accessibility. The emergence of plastic materials revolutionized domestic landscapes, liberating forms and diversifying experiences. Plastic's remarkable malleability allowed for the realization of newfound ideas, and with polyurethane foams and innovative elastic fabrics, designers embraced vibrant primary colors with the same freedom as artists. They could now translate their boldest ideas, humor, and spirit of subversion into functional objects.
While there isn’t a pop Design movement in the same way we look at pop Art, certain creations – such as Paulin or Mourgue’s anthropomorphic chairs from the late 1960s – exemplify design’s assimilation to pop culture through a similar formal vocabulary. However, their works reflect a society undergoing a significant transformation rather than merely serving as a stylistic interpretation.
“Despite certain aesthetic convergences and the shared ideal of materialistic democratization that existed between pop Art and the design of that period, a fundamental divergence emerged between the two, relating to the paradox of the time. Pop Art was a virulent critique of consumer society whereas the designers of that time fully embodied this new hyper-modern and hyper-efficient society driven by vigorous production and mass consumption,” furthers Danant. “Intriguingly, Paulin rejected assimilation to pop culture, yet he unwittingly became one of its most emblematic representatives in design.”
With “French POP,” Demisch Danant attempts to illustrate the creative and cultural vivacity that took place in France in the 1960s – a highly-influential period of radical change, innovation, and contradictions. The works on view, from both Jacquet and his contemporaries, each convey a unique style and perspective that reflect the society they collectively inhabited and navigated.