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21 September - 27 October 2007

One Man’s Mess Is Another Man’s Masterpiece

Jan Mot gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new works by Pierre Bismuth.

In Today Is The Tomorrow of Yesterday celebrity magazine covers are treated as precious fragments from a long lost civilization.  The artist-archaeologist reconstructs, as it were, selected documents of pop culture as if they were shards of ancient pottery.  The completed collages, with their cracks and gaps and off-center placement, bear the traces of this mock restoration process.  The title of the work derives from a scene from Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry, where a confused little boy delivers an accidental witticism about time, a clever sounding tautology about ‘when today is’.  Bismuth’s ironic archaeology gives an uncanny depth to the flat pop culture present, transforming the immediacy of the tabloid now into an eternal moment of nostalgia and memory.  One can also detect in the artist’s procedure a reference to the décollage work of Jacques Villeglé, Raymond Hains, and Mimo Rotella, with their lacerated poster aesthetic.

Of what does the artist dream when he falls asleep?  In Le Sommeil de la Raison Engendre des Monstres (The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters), Bismuth becomes an interior decorator, offering a wallpaper pattern composed of famous artist names.  First created for a wallpaper producer, the strips of paper are cut so that the first and last names are separated.  When pasted on the wall, their arrangement produces humorous chance (or monstrous?) couplings: Andy Ruscha, Ed Buren, Marcel Flavin…  The formal problem at the base of the work is how to create variation starting from a simple repeated pattern.  The use of artist names, however, makes the work also into a comment on the function of celebrity names, and the extraordinary value they take on in today’s speculative art market.

The principal work of the show, from whence the title of the exhibition,
One Man’s Mess Is Another Man’s Masterpiece, consists in a projection of shattered glass slide mounts.  The intricate and sinuous spider web patterns cast on the wall are evocative of the cracked Large Glass of Marcel Duchamp.  Here however there is nothing behind the damaged pane - the only ‘masterpiece’ to be seen is the ‘mess’ itself.  Bismuth’s procedure ironically transforms a standard medium for the presentation of images into a new source of images, while also making the particular designs dependent on a (literally) chance collision.  The speed and violence of a simple repeated gesture gives rise here to infinite aesthetic variations.  If the first part of the show proposes a series of stereotyped images without event (Brad Still Loves You! Wedding Party of the Year, etc.), the second presents a kind of event without images, the projection of a shattering impact purified of any specific content.