The Paul-Armand Gette retrospective at MAM Paris retraces, from his beginning through to his latest works, the French artist’s fascination nature and the woman’s body the female body. From the sculptures in the first room entitled “Totem de Lettres” to the last installation “Offrande à Aphrodite”, the artist reveals his uncommon artistic journey, blending several mediums, each one used brilliantly. I am not struck by the “what” and the “why” of each work of art, but rather by the “how” with which he freely communicates his artistic voice in order to touch the viewers deeply and give them the opportunity to continue imagining and exploring in whatever way suits them best.
Gette doesn’t compromise. He transports his vision and his talent to incongruous spheres, perhaps not even thinking at first about pleasing his audience. He assembles letters to form a rebus in the shape of a sculpture, and crystals and poetry to demonstrate the rapport between perspectives and symmetries. It is a complex task to take in all the work presented here as a series of art works and to define it. Aesthetically, it tends to be abstract and it challenges perceptions more than it attracts beauty. Perhaps there is no need to detect the signs which will lead to meaning and interpretation, “La plage…été 1973” and “Le toucher du modèle” are those kinds of artistic pieces which recount a story within a story. Through the details described in the imagery, the models, the landscape, the props, the clothes, and the poses, the author creates a dialogue – first with himself, then with the potential viewer. “What does that make you feel?” The artist seems to be asking. “What if I move this hand, or this element this way?” He continues to investigate. Whether or not the viewers engage with this fictional character doesn’t seem to be crucial for the art to exist. But if they do, they activate all their senses, even their most intimate feelings. Far from wanting to shock or provoke, Gette’s creative intention makes it possible for the viewer to be present with a piece he created years ago.
Throughout the exhibition, a connection is being made with Lewis Carroll, and Alice Wonderland. Constantly referring to the book and the author, the exhibition evolves around the nature of the story, abstract and defying all logic, yet extremely likeable, and the author himself, an intriguing persona who revelled in inventing stories for young children. The artist revisits the vision of Lewis, and the unexpected journey which he imagines his primary character Alice will take along the path of the e story. She evolves in a semi-reality punctuated by extraordinary events, only to reflect back, and instruct herself the sensible lessons of life she has experienced. In the instance of Gette’s exhibition, he seems to have created his world as Alice would have, thus inspiring us to envision the world around us as both she and he have perceived it before. If this sounds like a too conceptually formulaic way to outline the exhibition, perhaps taking a headlong dive into the rabbit hole would be the fastest way to get closer to Gette’s reality.
Un Parcours Alicien: Paul-Armand Gette at Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris (4 May to 17 September 2017)