Bernar Venet, Une rétrospective 2019-1959 at the MAC Lyon
01The retrospective offered by the Contemporary Art Museum of Lyon very comprehensively retraces Bernar Venet’s artistic research, starting with his very first youth pieces and artworks created in Tarascon during his military service in 1961. Back then, Bernar Venet discovers with fascination the intensity of tar as a material and the depth of its black color. The artist engages and includes his entire body in a first performance, surrounded by trash and cardboard.
It is particularly interesting to see the variety of mediums used by Bernar Venet (sculptures, painting, diagrams, video, sound compositions, photographs, poems), and to explore them chronologically, to better understand the artist’s line of thought through time, places, encounters, to understand its sensitive and moving evolution, the key-steps of his reflection, his choice of materials and formats.
Like this first sculptural gesture, in 1963, when Bernar Venet installs a heap of coal to expose the material to daylight, in an inaugural and undetermined volume. He uses flattened cardboards covered with shiny industrial paint or tar, going through dots, lines and surfaces, to distance himself, thanks to his work on steel and imposing volumes, from the exhibition wall. The artist’s work could be compared to a patient space conquest: crossing, inhabiting, increasing the density.
Like those shiny cutout cardboard tubes displayed in the third floor room of the museum, where space has been made almost playful with his early bright colors and shapes, before diving into the exploration of material, and black.
Like his departure for New York and the United States in 1966, which opened new perspectives toward the formulation of a unique conceptual thought, the encounter with other artists of the Judson Church, scientists, philosophers.
Like the bright colors of his imposing frames/supports, where mathematical formulas dance and mingle.
Like the ever-changing, lively colors of Corten steel of his more recent works, displayed on the first floor.
The gigantism of some pieces is intimidating, with their lines of force, their tensions, like the resolution of an unsteadiness, of vertigo, that occurred just before us, before we came in.
Between fascination and immediacy, the visual experience offered by Venet creates a strange relationship to temporality, as though we were arriving just “after”, almost too late to fully witness the creative moment (the accident?), which resulted in what we see. For one feels a certain proximity to these works, through their austerity, almost simplicity that evidently leads to an encounter. Material, monosemic facts, placed there, that can create a certain feeling of dryness, aridity, as a way of distancing themselves.
It is each visitor’s initiative to get closer, to cover this distance, to own it, in order to access a part of their own story.
I liked taking the time to encounter each period of Venet’s work, to open the possibility of an interior dialog in order to capture the energy contained in each one of his works. My body was able to travel peacefully, let itself be moved and shifted through the dynamics of movement created by the shapes drawn in the space. Venet persistently searches for a balance between the “solid”, the “saturated”, the chaos, and purity, the “just enough”, the simple presence. He creates, within us, echoes and possible vibrations through moldings of fixed materials, gravity and the monolithic presence of his imposing sculptures. Maybe it is his relationship to science, to the physical, what is tangible, to geometric data that occupy and constitute our world and our environment, that brings me close to his works, makes them accessible to me. Arches, angles, lines, falls are all elements, dynamics, space flows that talk to me as a choreographer. What if Bernar Venet’s artworks were moments of dance fixed, captured in solid matter?Each work is a visual object, yet the body and the thought (the idea) are never far, suggested, often contained in the work itself.
These are works that embrace us, just as they seem to embrace the space that hosts and contains them.
Bernar Venet, Une rétrospective 2019-1959
commissariat de Thierry Raspail
Through January 6th 2019
MAC Lyon, Contemporary Art Museum of Lyon, France
Wednesday to Friday from 11am to 6pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 7pm.