The Centre Pompidou presents a retrospective of abstract and conceptual painter Bernard Frize (born in 1954, lives and works in Paris and Berlin), to which the Pinault Collection is contributing a work.
Centre Pompidou / Paris
<b>Angela Lampe</b> <br/>
Curator of the exhibition, <br/>
Musée national d’art moderne
<span class="alinea"></span>A long line without beginning or end, in an unremarkable shade of grey, snakes its way across the surface of the canvas, creating an ornamental all-over structure, similar to wire mesh. The decorative serenity it emanates is deceptive. The regularity of the outside edge of the canvas contrasts with the dance of running knots at its center. The system disintegrates before our eyes. Entropy is occurring.
<span class="alinea"></span>Bernard Frize’s paintings do not lend themselves to a rapid analysis. They require a prolonged study. In order to decipher the artist’s process, the viewer must retrace the movements of Frize’s paintbrush, which the artist faithfully reveals with full transparency. A single line fills the entire surface of the canvas. That the height of the canvas corresponds more or less to the average height of a human being is no coincidence: it is a means for the artist to establish a relationship with the viewer who contemplates his work. The undulating line of <i>No. 10</i>, drawn in freehand, its accelerations, folds, and rebounds, emphasizes the idea that the movement of a paintbrush is akin to a performance.
<span class="alinea"></span>By following the line with our eyes, we can assimilate this continuous movement and experience a permanent flux. Frize has admitted that he finds continuity to be “the most reassuring thing in the world.” His serial practice, from its start in the late 1970s, is founded on perpetuation. <i>No. 10</i> is part of a series of works with different patterns, all created in 2005, in the same square format, the same two-tone palette, their titles ranging from seemingly random numbers (302 or 531, for instance) to banal words like <i>Jeudi</i> or <i>Voilà</i>.
<span class="alinea"></span>Frize’s titles often do not lead anywhere. They mean nothing to him, besides simply serving as a means of finding his works in a digital database. At times he doesn’t even chose his titles himself. However, some of the very first works in this series, included in the inaugural show of Emmanuel Perrotin’s new exhibition space in Miami in 2005, have more suggestive titles, such as <i>Pavitram</i> or <i>Euler Tour</i>. They reveal the sources of inspiration of the artist, which he describes in a text that accompanies this series.
<span class="alinea"></span>First, there is ethnology. Frize is a collector of the ancient arts of southeast Asia. His diagrams resemble some you might find in Vanuatu, in India, in Angola, in Egypt, or among the Celts. He was struck in particular by the discovery of a complex drawing representing a turtle, traced in the sand on a beach during a ritual, then erased by the ocean. The risk of imminent disappearance is suggested by the white lacuna that from afar appear in the mesh of <i>No. 10</i>.
<span class="alinea"></span>Frize then evokes the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler (1707–1783), considered the originator of graph theory with his famous problem known as the Bridges of Könisberg: is it possible to devise a route through the city of Könisberg that would involve crossing each of the city’s seven bridges only once? Frize took up Euler’s theorem to establish an absurd process for filling the entirety of the canvas with a single line; in his work <i>Spitz</i> (1991), for instance, he explored all the different possible moves that a knight can make on a chessboard. The reliance on scientific models or on diagrams of all kinds frees Frize from the pressure of invention. To this end, he divided the surface of the canvas into a grid of thirteen by thirteen tiles, pivoted it forty-five degrees, then erased some intersections to allow a passageway among the cells: in other words, the artist sabotaged his own method.
<span class="alinea"></span>And perhaps that is what Frize wants to demonstrate: the absurdity of systems that remain closed off to the vagaries of execution. He captures the failure of his own processes—a paradox he deeply enjoys.