The Searching Line
Jacques Jarrige The Searching Line
The Searching Line: Jacques Jarrige First published 2013 Copyright ÂŠ 2013
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Valerie Goodman Gallery 315 East 91st Street, New York, NY, 10128 +1 212 348 2968 www.valeriegoodmangallery.com
Jacques Jarrige The Searching Line
meanders fiori disclosures presences
After a friend prompted me to visit the website of Jacques Jarrige in 2010, I knew instantly that I had found what I was looking for: a designer who had his own distinct vocabulary, whose work was well balanced yet surprising, and who expressed himself more as an artist than a furniture maker. The online images were small, but seeing his sensually curved floor and table lamps, his cocktail tables with their organically carved out-openings, and his sofa that fascinatingly looked like a metal line drawing convinced me to book a flight to Paris - I was certain that Jacques Jarrige was the designer I wanted to represent in the gallery I was about to open in New York. After managing a gallery devoted to twentieth century European decorative arts for several years I had decided to turn over a new leaf. I wanted to share my vision of what would be the most vibrant and innovative design coming out of my native France today. When I arrived in Paris, my first encounter with the diverse yet clearly related family of objects that inhabit Jacques Jarrige's home and small, crammed but orderly studio went far beyond my expectations. Already enchanted by the images on his website, I immediately and completely fell under the spell of these carefully crafted objects with their tactile sensitivity and noble simplicity in real life. Meet足ing their creator, I felt we'd already been introduced by these graceful, quiet pieces. I found the same lean, nimble and poetic quality in the person as in the things he makes, complemented by generosity, patience and a passion for experiment.
We soon embarked on an intense collaboration: in countless Skype conversations I would discover Jacques' rapid evolution toward ever more original and soulful forms. We seem to have met at a magic moment. Through our virtual transatlantic communication as well as numerous visits to Paris, I witnessed the swift development of whole new bodies of work that recently culminated in the delicate Meander series, which fuses lines of calligraphic refinement with humble materials like plywood. The screens, desks and lamps of this group are almost more architectural than sculptural: they conquer the space around them with the most gentle force imaginable - just by casting a tangle of gorgeous, inescapable lines. I found out that Jacques Jarrige works constantly. With striking honesty and humility he "finds" his next piece. The captivating narrative in his work speaks of something profound and harmonious at the core of creativity. Unlike most designers Jarrige fashions his pieces with his hands and intuitively measures their impact with his whole body. Equipped with his fine senses but not much of a predetermined plan, he sculpts, bends and layers his raw materials until they reveal their inevitable form to his inner eye. Modest materials give him the freedom of an empty canvas: no ornament will weigh down his lightfooted objects. Since our first exhibition at my Upper East Side space in 2010, Jacques Jarrige has received wide attention as well as commissions for custom work in America. At the same time he keeps up his energetic pursuit of finding his next pieces. I know they are waiting for him, hiding inside plywood and fiberboard, invisible to the rest of us. I'm looking forward to his future discoveries and the joyous opportunity to show them at my gallery.
in the moment by Jeannine Falino
in the moment by Jeannine Falino
Lean and angular like his furniture, French artist Jacques Jarrige has developed an expressive and sensuous body of work since the 1980s. He enjoys a devoted following in Europe, particularly in his native France, where museums have been collecting his work, and his profile is beginning to rise among American collectors, aided by design magazines that depict his work with increasing frequency1. A sculptor in outlook, Jarrige says that “design bores me when it is decorative. . . . For me, the idea in itself of function is a ‘prison’ but perhaps I am reacting as a sculptor rather than a designer.”2 And while his designs certainly work with the principles of ergonomics, Jarrige doesn't follow the modernist dictum that form follows function. Instead he has created a unique vocabulary of sculptural forms that touch an ancient chord of memory. The volume and surface of his objects reference biomorphic artists Jean Arp, Constantin Brâncusi, Henry Moore, and Isamu Noguchi, among others, and his distinctive forms, often lacquered in black, add distinction to modern interiors. Jarrige is a thinker and a seeker who reads widely and experiments continually. Working in the moment, he is open to the chance view, connection, or exchange that may inform his work. He follows several threads of interest, toggling back and forth as inspiration calls. His sculptural inquiry into solids and voids has yielded some arresting designs that are imbued with a subtle, yet undeniably zoomorphic quality. Meanwhile, Jarrige’s exploration of the meandering line has led to some exciting breakthroughs in lighting,
In the Moment by Jeannine Falino
screens, and seating. Most recently, his adaptation of an open-weave motif in furniture can be seen in his new series of lighting, desks, and bookcases. As a child, Jarrige enjoyed drawing and has vivid memories of the paintings his father collected by French painters André Derain, Paul Vlaminck, and André Dunoyer de Segonzac. Their direct, sensuous response to color and landscape made a deep impression on Jarrige, providing him from his earliest years with “food for the eyes.”3 Initially planning for a career in architecture, the artist found a more satisfying path by making his mark far from the world of blueprints and scale drawings, in the direct fabrication of objects that sprung from his imagination. While the linear aspect of his work may owe a debt to his architectural training, from the start he employed a languid line that has more in common with the organic world than architecture. Early works in metal Beginning in the early 1980s, Jarrige focused on furniture fabricated with metal rods. Ranging from stools to chairs and sofas, this work demonstrates his sculptural thinking, even from the start, as he displayed a talent for
describing space and volume through lively lines punctuated with river stones, set like gemstones in a very large ring. By the late 1980s, Jarrige became acquainted with Frédéric de Luca, who began to represent him in his Paris gallery, En Attendant les Barbares (Waiting for the Barbarians), its name inspired by a preference for materials such as iron or bronze that had a “barbarian”4 look. De Luca opened his gallery in reaction to the slick, manufactured designer furniture of the era, and it soon became a magnet for the young generation of French artists who reveled in working with their hands and found joy in the handmade. En Attendant les Barbares also represented: Garouste & Bonetti (Elizabeth Garouste and Mattia Bonetti), who became known in the early 1980s for their inventive work in metal furnishings; Eric Schmitt, who was experimenting with iron in a linear fashion; and Christian Louboutin, then working as a painter before turning to the shoe designs for which he is now renowned. Croquis | Sketches
Jarrige was a perfect fit. In de Luca, he found an intel-
ligent, artistic, and supportive sponsor. A notable piece for
his first exhibition at the gallery, his gilt Klimt lamp of 1991 was made of twisted wire, arranged in a tall, rather Klee-like construction, with twinkling bits of mirror here and there. The seemingly imbalanced appearance of Klimt and its playful arrangement of forms and textures were harbingers of what would become the core of Jarrige’s style.
Organic forms It was not long before Jarrige began to expand his notion of furniture-making beyond metalwork to include wood. By the mid-1990s he was making lush biomorphic forms, on which he lavished great energy, shaping them into subtle hollows and swells, lacquered and sometimes accented with gold leaf. For inspiration, in addition to the sculptors mentioned earlier, he looked to Alexandre Noll, the French master of the sensual and primordial in ebony and other rare woods, and an occasional maker of furniture. Since Jarrige had not formally studied furniture-making, however, he initially grappled with the techniques of the genre, the constructive means of achieving his ends. In this way he resembles American master Wendell Castle, who considers himself a sculptor who makes furniture; at the beginning of his career, Castle also lacked the basic skills of the craft. For both men, this dilemma had unexpected benefits, enabling them to think more broadly about the kind of forms that interested them before turning to the technical aspects of fabrication. As Jarrige recalls, it allowed him to view furniture with “fresh eyes.”5 Key to this unburdened approach was his choice of medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and plywood as his primary materials. The poverty of these materials had the benefit of freeing Jarrige from the classic constraints of furniture-making, allowing him to shape objects irrespective of wood grain or color and offering an opportunity to add layers or carve as he saw fit. His sculptural method is an exploration of positive and negative space, of solid and void, a reductive method that
in Jarrigeâ€™s hands yielded a palpable zoomorphic quality, whether one is looking at his dining tables and desks with their curvaceous, rounded edges and swelling legs, at case pieces such as Toro, a rather bullish fall-front secretary, or at a coffee table whose undulating edge resembles the sleekly muscled shoulders and hindquarters of a walking panther. Other pieces resemble primordial shapes, such as his compact, sculpted Osselet stool, which he produces in both MDF and solid wood. His Torquemada series, with its tremulous and slender, branchlike legs, offers the tensed energy of a dancer ready to leap on the stage. Perhaps most elegant is the standing lamp that Jarrige calls Leda, a supple form with a contraposto pose, a beckoning figure in abstraction. The surface effects of high-gloss paint, black lacquer, or French polish add to the sensuous nature of these forms. As with Leda, lighting has presented a different set of challenges and solutions for Jarrige. Early in his career, he developed cast-bronze table lamps that emulated stones randomly set upon one another. Moving toward a lighter profile, he created a hanging, basketlike lamp composed of metal strips loosely woven into an elongated shape. Since the mid-nineties, he has been working on a lively series
called Fiori, using reflective and easily worked sheet-brass and aluminum, inspired by the monumental floral studies of the German photographer Karl Blossfeldt (Art Forms in Nature, 1926), as well as Dagobert Peche who designed for the Wiener WerkstĂ¤tte from 1911 until his untimely death in 1923. Jarrige cuts and manipulates each chandelier and sconce from a single sheet of metal, leaving no scrap behind. Using hand tools, he coaxes slender branches into being, with leaves that unfold in a natural and somewhat spiky profusion of forms. Meanderings To know Jacques Jarrige is to recognize his search for expressive form not only as an ongoing creative process of experimentation with solids and voids, but also with balance. Usually seen with something arresting in his hands, he often makes use of items culled from his surroundings, investigating their potential at work or play, on a kitchen table or in the studio, wherever inspiration strikes. This practice has led to some of his most remarkable sculptural breakthroughs that are rendered in the form of furniture, mobiles, stabiles, small abstract sculptures, and sometimes jewelry. Jarrige experienced a powerful artistic inspiration several years ago from an unlikely quarterâ€”the patients of the
Hôpital de Jour, Centre Médico-Psychologique de SaintMaur in Paris, where he has taught woodworking for over twenty years. One day, upon seeing the irregular lines his patients achieved using an electric jig, Jarrige felt himself on their wavelength, in kinship with their efforts. The tremor or slight meander they produced in the wood reminded him of the natural effect of water as it eroded a riverbank, something more alive and unpredictable than the mechanical results that come from the standard use of woodworking tools. With a conscious effort, he began to introduce this new kind of hesitant, meandering line into his own work, with exciting results. In some cases, it has been applied to the surface of rectilinear cabinets, softening an otherwise geometric form. Jarrige’s Meander screen is the largest and most ambitious work in the series resulting from his new aesthetic. The openwork frame embodies Jarrige’s line and traces a joyous abstract dance across four panels. It allows the eye to travel back and forth through an endless biomorphic loop of hills and valleys, figures and movement. Although drawings form the basis for his designs, they are not static. As he explains,
once at work in the studio, “I build as I go so that the vocabulary and the technique amplify and strengthen each other. It is what makes the process so stunning and captivating.” He happily acknowledges his debt to the patients for opening his eyes to this approach, saying that “it is why I work so well with the patients. They are in the moment, like me, finding solutions and expanding as we go.”6 A similar experience at the Hôpital de Jour took place when he introduced the patients to the idea of creating mobiles and stabiles, forms that Jarrige had been working on for some time. The class moved from constructing small, individually made sculptures to a group project that culminated in twenty-foot-tall mobile. This experience gave Jarrige a new appreciation for the expressive power of these open, irregular, sculptural forms. When the large mobile was installed, Jarrige recalled his excitement at their success: “it was like a present to discover the beauty of this nonintellectual approach, and the innocence of their work.”7 Following this effort, Jarrige embarked on a new series of stabiles and
mobiles, which have poured out in quick succession, experimenting with balance and weight in a new and different manner, and creating defiantly and tenderly awkward forms, made of branches, plywood, and MDF, and holding sway over the viewer. Open weaves A “nonintellectual” attitude also plays a part in some of Jarrige’s recent desks and lamps. At first glance, they appear almost Gaudiesque with towering, idiosyncratic profiles. Made of strips of plywood that have been individually cut, shaped, and screwed together, some have unfinished surfaces, while others show off a palette based on organic materials such as coral, ivory, ebony, and anise. The resulting work embraces the user in an open-weave construct, with strips darting into the air, and shelves at every angle, surrounding a generous work surface. Jarrige reads widely, and literature informs his thinking in the studio as well. When interviewed for a book on artists and their literary pursuits, he paid homage to French surrealist poet Francis Ponge. His favorite poem, “Le parti pris des choses” (1942, often translated as “The Voice of Things”), celebrates such quotidian items as oranges, potatoes and cigarettes.8 Jarrige’s selection of this poem reminds us of his ceaseless search for form in the world around him, one that invests humble forms with sculptural insights.
1. Jarrige’s work is in the Musée historique et archéologique de L’Orléanais and the Centre national des arts plastiques. For published examples, see, among others, Marie-France Boyer, “Shades of Gray,” The World of Interiors (London) (May 2011): 208–17; Renaud Legrand, “La dolce vita à la française,”Architectural Digest (Paris) (July–August 2011): 124–33; Marie-France Boyer, “Barbarians and Bibelots,” The World of Interiors (London) (September 2011): 100–105; Bianca Bufi, “Près du Paradis,” Maison Française (Paris) 573 (September 2011): 118–27; Kurt G. Stapelfeldt, “À Berlin, la maison rêvée de Karena Schuessler,” IDEAT (Paris) 88 (November 2011): 220–27. 2. Jacques Jarrige, interview with Esther Henwood, in Esther Henwood, Design & Litterature: Une liaison inspirée (Paris: Norma, 2009), 78–81. 3. Jacques Jarrige, online conversation (Skype) with the author, July 2012. 4.Boyer, “Barbarians and Bibelots,” 100–105. 5. Jarrige, online conversation. 6. Jacques Jarrige, discussing his method, translated by Valerie Goodman, July 2012. 7. Jarrige, online conversation, July 2012. 8. Jarrige, interview with Esther Henwood, 78.
La ligne incertaine.
The Searching Line
La ligne n’est pas ce qui trace la forme
The line — rather than tracing the shape
et définit le volume. La ligne exprime la
or defining a volume - creates a dialogue
dialectique entre la forme et l’espace.
between form and space. As if working
Jacques Jarrige insère la forme telle une
with fluid living material, Jacques Jarrige
matière vivante dans l’espace : comme
inserts form into space, just as a mean-
le cours d’une rivière, ses méandres
dering river expresses the landscape with
épousent la topographie du milieu am-
every turn: its banks a line of perpetual
biant, ses rives évoluent constamment
movement, as alive as the water itself.
dans un dessin perpétuellement mou-
The flowing line tentatively finds its way,
vant, donc perpétuellement vivant. La
fitting the environment. The line's
forme devient vivante. Ses hésitations
subtle vibration infuses the form and
accueillent humblement l’espace alen-
brings space to life. The object becomes
tour. La palpitation de la ligne donne
calligraphy: vivifying the void.
non seulement vie à la forme, mais aussi à l’espace dans lequel elle s’inscrit. Le vide devient espace vivant. L’objet est une calligraphie.
la ligne incertaine by Laurent Charreyron
translation Claudia Steinberg
Interpénétration du vide et de la forme.
Interplay between Void and Solid
Plus n’est besoin de travailler la masse :
Jacques Jarrige no longer carves a shape
dans le travail récent de Jacques Jarrige
from a block. His forms have become
la forme devient de plus en plus poreuse
increasingly porous — with an ease
; refusant tout maniérisme, toute facil-
resembling the forces that sculpt nature,
ité de style elle tend à n’exprimer plus
his recent works express the essential. His
que l’essentiel : l’empreinte presque
organic shapes owe as much to Jean
organique des forces qui sculptent
Arp and Henry Moore as to Giovanni
le vivant. Forme organique (donc
Pennone. At his home, it seems as if these
fonctionnelle), qui doit autant à Jean
objects had always been there: - function-
Arp et à Henry Moore, qu’à Giovanni
al, friendly companions — never man-
Pennone. Chez soi, d’une certaine
nered, never morbid. They don't impose
façon ces objets auront toujours été là :
anything. They belong to a familiar besti-
fonctionnels, amicaux, jamais morbides.
ary, objects for living.
Ils n’imposent rien. Bestiaire familier, objets à vivre.
3 Croquis | Sketches
Asceticism, Humility, and the Ethics
Aux hésitations de la ligne, répond
One answer to the searching line is a
la simplicité des matériaux em-
simplicity of materials: medium density
ployés : médium, contreplaqué brut,
fiberboard, raw plywood, naked branch-
bois écorcé. Rien ne doit distraire
es. Renouncing stylistic clichés, Jacques
de l’écoute de la note juste -ce qui
Jarrige works with bare forms that pre-
n’empêche pas la recherche de la
serve their original purity, developing a
préciosité : laquage, choix des cou-
free and simple vocabulary that literally
leurs, dorure à la feuille. En renonçant
embodies his human and spiritual es-
progressivement à toutes les facilités
sence. Nothing interferes with finding
de style, à tous les accessoires, en
the right note— this, however, doesn't
dépouillant la forme pour en retrouver
exclude the precious: lacquer, rich colors,
la pureté originale, Jacques Jarrige a
développé un vocabulaire simple et libre qui est l’incarnation littérale de son expérience humaine et spirituelle.
Ascétisme, humilité, Ethique
Le Temps, l’Espace.
Time and Space
Par l’archétype de la forme, Jacques
Working with archetype forms, Jacques
Jarrige insère ses objets dans une
Jarrige gives his objects the imprimatur
longue durée ; cependant, bizarrement,
of timelessness, and yet they also evoke
ces formes évoquent aussi l’éphémère
the ephemeral: the primal forms speak
: la forme primale parle à la fois de la
both of time immemorial and of an
vie antérieure de l’objet, et du temps,
object's past life as well as of its eventual
immémorial, de sa fossilisation. Tout
fossilization. Everything passes, nothing
passe, rien n’est si important. Les Mo-
lives forever. The mobiles Jacques Jar-
biles de JJ, parfois rapidement assem-
rige assembles on the beach with found
blés sur la plage à partir de matériaux
objects — supposedly lifeless flotsam
bruts « inertes », racines, os de seiches,
of driftwood and cuttlefish vertebrae —
etc…, jouant avec le moindre souffle de
move in the slightest breeze. They vibrate
vent, s’inscrivent dans un espace mou-
in a fleeting, uncertain space. But this
vant, éphémère et incertain. Mais un
fluid space where the forces of nature play
espace fluide, où les forces jouent har-
harmoniously is eternity.
monieusement dans l’éternité.
Meander Screens, 2012 4 Panel screen lacquered MDF, Coral, White, Black or custom H: 78.25" (199 cm) L: 110" ( 279 cm)
Meander Table and Suspension, 2012 Folding table/consoleÂ and Suspension light above, plywood and custom finish, H:29.5" (75 cm) L: 6'1" (186 cm) W: 35.5" (90 cm)
Meander Cabinet, 2012 2 Sliding doors or custom Cabinet, Painted MDF, H: 27.5" (70 cm) W: 94.5" (240 cm) D: 19" (48,25 cm) or custom
Meander stools and Bar stools, 2013 Stained oak H: 28.5" ( 72.4 cm ) D: 13" (33 cm) H: 18" (45,72 cm) D: 12.5" (31,75 cm)
Meander Armchair, 2011 Painted wood and natural hand-stitched leather H: 35" (89 cm) W: 23.5" (59,7 cm) D: 31" (78,75 cm)
Meander Standing Lamp, 2012 Painted plywood, H: 5'5" (167,6 cm) D: 26.5" (67,30 cm)
La Secrétaire, 2012 Writing table and Shelves, Plywood and custom finish H: 7'4" (188 cm) D: 28" (71 cm) W: 41" (104 cm)
I remember the teacher for life drawing at architecture school explaining to us that we shouldnâ€™t try to draw the contours of the body but the negative spaces between the legs or the arms when the hands rest on the hip, for example. You always have to negotiate the connection with the negative space in order to succeed. The same with sculpture: you look for the and negative. The line can be tense but you need the negative to be as present as the positive.
vibration that inevitably exists between positive
La Bibliothèque, 2012 Plywood and custom finish H: 6'2" (189 cm) D: 18.5" (47 cm) W: 35" (89 cm)
Meander Mobile, 2012 Mobile Sculpture plywood H: 6'8" (207,25 cm) W: 9'6" (292 cm)
arid functionalism; it fashions and shapes according to logic and suitability, and with its primeval force compels everything to attain the highest artistic form."
"The plant never lapses into mere
Fiori Chandeliers, 2010-12 Hand-cut brass or aluminum 7-10 lights H: 43" (109 cm) D: 42" (107 cm) , Next page H: 24" (61 cm) D: 48" (122 cm) , or custom size
Fiori Wall Lights, 2010 Hand-cut brass or aluminum H: 26" (66 cm) W: 13" (33 cm) and H: 22" (55,8 cm) W: 28"
Fiori Lamps, 2012 Hand-cut brass 3 lights H: 24" (61 cm) D: 17" (43 cm)
Table/desk with drawer, 2011 Painted plywood or custom finish 1 or 2 drawers H: 29.5" (73,6 cm) L: 87" (221 cm) W: 37" (94 cm)
We all engage in a dialogue with the materials we use, that is true for Noll as well as Nakashima. One uses exotic woods, the other works with massive pieces, but in each case there is a compromise between the material and the artist. They find what is inherent in the material. And all of us approach our materials intuitively first, and only then begin exploring.
Cloud Cocktail tables, 2010 LacqueredÂ wood or custom H: 15" (38 cm) L: 24" (61 cm) W: 15" (38 cm) H: 16.75 (42,5 cm): L: 35" (89 cm) W: 21" (53,3 cm) H: 17" (43 cm) L: 39" (99 cm) W: 19.5"(49,5 cm)
Torquemada consoles, 2011 Wood and oak veneer with or without drawers H:34 (86,3 cm) L: 43.75" (111 cm) W: 16.75" (42,5 cm) or custom
Torquemada side tables, 2009 Lacquered wood H: 29.5" (75 cm) L: 19.75" (50 cm) W: 15.75" ( 40cm)
Torquemada Dining table, 2010 Wood and oak veneer or custom H: 30"(51 cm) L" 96"(244 cm) W: 43.5" (110,5 cm) or custom
Little Mobiles, 2009 Found Wood, balanced mobile sculpture H: 31"(78,7 cm) D: 52" (132 cm) , H: 20" (51 cm) D:11" (28 cm) H: 20" ( 51 cm) D37" (94 cm)
Toro Coffee Table, 2010 Stained layered MDF or white lacquer or custom H: 17" (43 cm) L: 53" (134,6 cm) W: 32" (81,3 cm)
I work with simple materials and small hand tools. Originally this came out of necessity because I couldn't afford anything else. At the same time I chose neutral and versatile materials like MDF (medium-density fiberboard), brass, and even bronze, which actually acquires its value mainly through the work in the foundry. These poor materials have allowed for more freedom in expressing my personal gesture.
Leda, 2010 Stained ash or white lacquer or custom H: 77" (195,5 cm) D: 22" (55,9 cm)
Togo, 2010 Bronze, dark patina or with polished facets H: 27" (68,6 cm) D: 14" (35,5 cm)
Wall Consoles, 2000-2011 With drawer or shelve, stained MDF, H: 8" (20,3 cm) L: 47.9" (119,4 cm) W: 9" (22,9 cm), H: 8" (20,3 cm) L: 38.25" (97cm) W: 11" (28 cm), H: 5.5" (167,6 cm) L: 12.5" (31,75 cm) D: 8.5" (21,6cm)
Osselet, 2010 Stained or natural Wood H: 18"(45,72 cm) L: 13" (33 cm) W: 14.5" (35,8 cm)
Andirons, 2000 Bronze with black patina or polished H: 13" (33 cm) L" 13.5" (34,3 cm)
by Claudia Steinberg
You grew up with art all around you - what is the most vivid reaction that you recall from your childhood to a specific work of art? Art was vital to my father and his first wife had an art gallery - she discovered in Paris the Japanese artist Tsugouharu every aspect of her work: the acquisitions as well as building relationships with the artists. Having great art on the wall seemed just natural to me. My emotions were triggered by sculpture. When I was a teenager, there were a lot of galleries showing African art in my neighborhood of St Germain des PrĂ¨s and I found the sculptures striking: how could such seemingly simple objects emanate so much power? The immediacy of their depiction had something unsettling. But my most vivid reaction to art - an emotional shock, really - came from the sculptures of Henry Moore. The pieces I did for my second exhibition at Les Barbares - Leda and the Toro coffee table - echoed the work of Moore, but also that of Arp, Noll, and Nakashima. These artists first guided me but then I realized that I had actually developed my own vocabulary. It had taken me a while to mature artistically.
Foujita, among others. My father became very involved in
Alexandre Noll has been mentioned as one of your influences - what has inspired you in his work, and where do you feel related? I saw the work of Noll at antique dealers in my neighborhood and - as with Moore, Calder, Nakashima, and Arp - I found the same power in his work as in that of the African sculptures which had such an impact on me earlier: there is no apparent virtuosity, it all seems done with such simplicity but at the same time his work has perfect balance - it breathes. And Noll's issue - like Calder's - was less to invent new objects than to investigate their relationship to space. Can you elaborate on the artistic milieu of "En Attendant les Barbares", and how it influenced your work? The artists at Les Barbares were all sculptors, and we made 88
our discoveries by going directly into production. I felt particularly close to the work of Eric Schmitt. We had the same approach: the work was our means of expressing our deeper self - what mattered to us was the gesture, its immediacy. Garouste and Bonnetti, on the other hand, were more concerned with developing collections around concepts based either on color or on certain materials, such as straw. Your works show that they are made by hand, and they distinguish themselves through a slightly tremulous line far from the industrial hard edge - how do materials and tools define your esthetic? I work with simple materials and small hand tools. Originally this approach came of necessity because I couldn't afford anything else. At the same time I chose neutral and versatile materials like MDF (medium-density fiberboard) and brass - and even bronze, which acquires its value mainly through the work in the foundry. These poor materials have allowed me a kind of freedom in expressing my personal gesture.
And the simplicity and directness of my work is what keeps it true. Working with people at the psychiatric hospital has given you an appreciation for an inexact, tentative contour - what attracted you to such subtle awkwardness, especially in light of the dominance of the industrially manufactured world? A friend of mine had exhibited at the hospital and she introduced me to the director who suggested that I should start this workshop. The most striking thing about these patients is that they are not in control of things. As for myself, I have always welcomed things just coming to me. The patients find themselves in a permanent position of non-mastery, unforapproach - I donâ€™t make plans and I don't try to master things. If you insist on a position of control, I believe, you end up wearing blinders. The industrially manufactured world, on the other hand, is all about control, and if you engage in it, you have to deal with fashion, with external specifications. What has the work meant to these patients? Do they also bring in their own special gifts? Since we started this latest series - beginning with small mobiles and progressing to bigger ones - and then the Meander cabinet and now the new secretary, I have had 100 sessions with more or less the same group, so I really know them well. Everyone has blossomed, and that in turn gives me energy. The sense of accomplishment is key. I'm thinking of one woman in particular who had once worked in the fashion industry - she had such freedom and audacity.
tunately. But in a way I could relate that to my own
Equally memorable was this guy from the Antilles - when he saw the big mobile put together and on exhibit he couldn’t get over the fact that he had participated in the creation of this piece: it was both his work and, very importantly, the work of the group - a unique object that we had made together. The shared effort is very grounding. It relates to a socialization process that I experience when others see and appreciate my work, when it touches them. Can you talk about your sense of balance in your work - not just in regard to the kinetic pieces but also in your static ones? The balance - in the mobiles as well as in the static pieces - results from the presence of a gesture. I seek to give movement and energy to a piece so one won't tire of looking at it. I want to achieve something that is not “arrested” or limited by its form but something that breathes. That's what 92
retains the viewer's attention in Le Secrétaire or the Meander cabinet. You have called your pieces functional sculptures - what is the function of the screen, for example? Rather than serving as a portable wall, it seems to divide a space more symbolically. When I said that function doesn’t interest me - that's only half true, I make a chair, I want to be able to sit on it of course: it will be stable but that's not the goal I'm thinking about when I make it. The screen is part of the evolution of my work; it came out of the Meanders which began with the mobiles. I was not thinking about the function of a screen the way an architect or designer would conceptualize it. Instead the piece developed into an architectural performance of structuring the space. It was not planned. What did your background as an artist give you that a designer couldn't have? For a brief time I had studied at a decorative art school in
Paris and learned to channel my interest in sculpture into furniture making. I learned through discovery. All my brothers are scientists, so going to a decorative art school probably seemed more in keeping with their serious pursuits than attending a fine art school like Les Beaux Arts. I believe that the lack of traditional training made me more open minded - I found answers to many design questions just by working with the material. I'm not limited by the vocabulary learned at a specific school. Neither am I motivated to produce “collections,” or something that is simply beautiful, elegant, chic, and seductive: I want the gesture to be the soul of the piece. However, design almost erases the gesture, and it generally doesn’t create emotion beyond its functionality. But that's been my desire from the very beginning: to express and create emotion. Furniture has proven a is a desk but it also points to an experience one can have with space, something more mysterious. Where do you find the emotion? I am interested in movement. When I'm on the beach, I am always building sculptures with drift wood, and I have often incorporated found wood in my work. Eventually the sculptures evolved and I discovered my original vocabulary for the big mobiles. Those gestures entered into various pieces of furniture, and I keep exploring the possibilities of that vocabulary. The Meanders are all about a gesture that is controlled and turned loose at the same time. Can you talk about the tension between simple wood and perfect lacquer, about these two esthetic worlds colliding and creating an unusual hybrid? Lacquer is very tactile, and that makes it interesting to me. It integrates well with my work because its application is not mechanical. I use a patina on the MDF to give that modest
surprisingly useful vehicle to fulfill that desire. La Secrétaire
material a certain nobility, and the combination of these two elements results in a more charged identity. I also started hammering the Fiori chandelier by hand because the markings emphasize the gesture and make it more vivid. I once hand-silvered a Fiori chandelier for a client, and I have produced work in expensive woods but generally that's not my focus. To me, plain plywood is as valuable as a lacquered piece or solid oak. It is not the material that gives a piece its power. I prefer La SecrĂŠtaire in plain plywood because the simple material has its own noblesse. Because of its flexibility plywood is also technically more appropriate than solid wood in this case. Oak would have constrained the gesture. It could be lacquered but that would be nothing more than an anecdote, not essential. 94
Plywood was also the preferred material of post-war modernism, inexpensive, versatile - the opposite of the precious woods someone like Noll would use - its modesty lends naked plywood the aura of arte povera, but at the same time it represents a sort of compromised nature. Its low cost and versatility make it very attractive. I also use a lot of medium density fiberboard, which was popular with many designers in the 80s when it was considered new and modern. I have kind of hijacked the material to suit my own needs by layering pieces of MDF and then shaping them into a sculpture. I started out with iron but it was never quite right for me, and then I discovered MDF. It brought me a mix between Moore and Noll. My first cabinets involved a lot of sculpting. Artists use materials that capture what they want to express: Nakashima made furniture atypical for Japanese culture but he captured its traditional essence by using an exalted mate-
rial that almost came before the form. We all engage in a dialogue with the materials we use; that is true for Noll as well as Nakashima. One uses exotic woods, the other uses massive pieces, but in each case there is a struggle between the material and the artist. They find what is inherent in the material. And all of us approach our materials intuitively first, and only then begin exploring. With Nakashima there is this tension between the raw wood and what he does to it - the balance between the two is the most important aspect of his work. It’s amusing to me that some people call it the work of a lumberjack when in reality it’s incredibly refined, everything but the work of a lumberjack. There is something shared between the material and him. He didn’t try to create a refined work - he is refined and it shows in his work.
be considered a form of luxury, since you only use a very small part of your material. The passage from drawing to cutout is interesting because there is no emptiness in the two-dimensional drawing. Only when cutting the holes do the lines become legible as positive spaces. I remember the teacher for life drawing at architecture school explaining to us that we shouldn’t try to draw the contours of the body but the negative spaces between the legs or the arms when the hands rest on the hip, for example. You always have to negotiate the connection with the negative space in order to succeed. The same with sculpture: you look for the vibration that inevitably exists between positive and negative. The line can be tense but you need the negative to be as present as the positive. When you take the screens, it is striking to discover the balance by just focusing on the negative spaces. I wanted
Allowing for so much negative space in your work could almost
the positive line to be equally present. In the drawing with the farandoles you can guess the body shapes but my challenge was to make the negative and positive perform together. For the suspension pieces I had to find that balance while I was making them. The same is true for the Meander cabinet - it was important to make the empty planes as interesting as the meandering lines. It sounds as if I had planned it all out but in reality I figured it out while making it. Your metal chandeliers, on the other hand, create no waste whatsoever, since you use up the entire sheet. I didnâ€™t begin Fiori with the decision that I should use the entire sheet but when I made the first one I noticed that I hadn't eliminated anything. As a matter of fact, I sponta96
neously discovered the plant's logic by intuitively working my way from the large branches to the smaller ones. Many of your recent designs have rather explicitly zoomorphic references - can you talk about your relationship to animals in the context of your work? Do you use them as an emotional touchstone? Like Moore, I actually feel closest to the human body - Arp and Brancusi departed from it. Animals possess the same basic logic that I seek for my objects: just a body on the ground. I am interested in movement that pushes off the ground. Maybe in the future I will move closer to the clouds. There are also anthropomorphic forms: one can easily read the screen like a drawing of a group of three voluptuous women standing closely together. It was hard not to think of body shapes, of hips.
You have looked at plants through the lens of Karl Blossfeldt - the inspiration there doesn't come from nature directly, but it is filtered through someone's very formalized vision of nature. Blossfeldt's images originally triggered my focus on plants. Now I always see the tension between negative and positive in a tree, for example. Something else could have pointed me in that direction or I could have missed it altogether, just like I could have missed African art or Moore. But instead I found what I was looking for. My work has a lot to do with my own body - not that I could have been a dancer but I was always nimble and had a sense of balance. I believe that one naturally reproduces one's physical or mental attributes. If you take Calder - simultaneously colossal and childlike. You recognize Moore just as you work doesnâ€™t resemble the artist. Giacometti was the first Giacometti. To what degree is movement and rhythm, real and suggested, frozen in the work itself? Even in a static piece I don't see the movement as frozen: the energy continues to interact with the environment and the eye of the viewer.
Your screens also represent a layering of lines; in a way they are actually multiple sculptures in one, depending on how you unfold them. After a quick sketch I made a small model and folded it thatâ€™s when I noticed that it could be read in different ways. It was a welcome surprise. I'm working on a larger one right now, which will consist of seven panels that can actually enclose a bed or a table, and it could also function as an
recognize Arp, who was rather severe. Itâ€™s bizarre when the
exterior element. At first I hesitated to close the form, thinking that it should remain opened ended or maybe attached to a wall. At one point I had imagined a room divider where the voids were filled with mirrors because they so effectively disrupt space. For yet another version I even considered shelves - like ĂŠtagĂ¨res - but in the end I decided against that idea. You wanted to be an architect - what has remained of that original interest, and how has it translated into your work? I really always felt like a sculptor but I went to architectural school because spatial work interested me. However, I needed to make things. My latest body of work, the Meanders series, is more architectural than any of my previous pieces. By enclosing and dividing, it reveals a greater 98
interest in the apprehension of space. Generally I like to create families of objects that support each other like architectural elements, or plants in a forest: they echo one another, like shadows. Like all your fine-boned furniture, the Meander paravent leads a second life in the graphic shadows it casts on the walls and the floor - these lines give your pieces an architectural dimension by allowing them to visually occupy more space. It is true that shadows inscribe the Meanders more deeply into the space, and they also give more reality to the piece. An object is successful if its shadows are as beautiful as itself. If the shadows don't project a convincing shape it means that something about the object is slightly poor. Shadows may reveal that it looks better from one side than another. When light passes through the object it has to extend its curves, its lines harmoniously.
You began working with metal rods in the 80s, later you switched to wood - would you describe your evolution as a progression towards a more delicate, organic, even fragile esthetic? My first body of work when I used metal rods and mirrors now reminds me more of Dali or Miro. I recognize my gesture but it is not yet accomplished. Only when I started using wood, especially MDF in my layered fashion, did I find my way so I could say to myself: I have come up with something original and meaningful. Most often my work evolved through commissions: I consider them gifts because they propel me to make new discoveries.
interaction of line and space. I focus on creating pieces that envelop an area. How would you describe the ratio - maybe tension - between intuition and conceptualization? I don't really create through conceptualization. Having gained more of a perspective I could now explore the Meanders series further intellectually but most likely I'll rather discover new directions in the process. What amuses me is that my work always finds its way on its own. Something completely unpredictable may influence my future work - it could be an accident or an unexpected commission, for example. Could you talk about the aging of the material with use? The naked plywood has a vulnerable feel to it; it seems a bit like a semi-industrial, semi-natural material looking for a second skin that you intentionally refuse.
In my more recent work I have become more sensitive to the
Some pieces, like the mobiles or La Secrétaire are perfectly right in naked plywood, while others I'll provide with a second skin of paint, patina, or a hand-hammered texture - choices that don’t take away from the gesture but rather reinforce it. Can you say something about tenderness towards materials, mental as well as tactile? You develop an attachment when you layer pieces of wood, when you polish it. You feel that the sculpture was already there, as Moore put it. There is something moving about applying patina or using plywood in a new way. When I add another layer in order to join pieces it’s like creating instead a new material - a very pleasant notion. A woodworker would rather cut and create an invisible joint but I prefer to place the pieces on top of each other to extend them. 100
I'm drawn to the work of artists who create vibration through collages, who create a new material. I did this with MDF. There's often a mix of tactile and mental pleasure in polishing or assembling pieces. We experience creativity on so many levels. Something happens at every stage of production, everything has the potential of becoming a major aspect of the work. And it’s endearing to find tricks to manipulate the material. There is a real dialogue with the material, and when you start polishing or hammering, it never fails to respond.
A list of notable solo exhibitions follows: 1989 Entrepôts de Bercy, Paris 1991 Galerie En attendant les Barbares, Paris 1993 Galerie En attendant les Barbares, Paris 1998 Hôtel de ville de Paris Salle Saint Jean 2002 Galerie Frédéric de Luca, Paris 2009 Galerie Thierry Marchand, Paris 2010 "Clouds" Valerie Goodman Gallery, NY 2012 "Meanders" Valerie Goodman Gallery, NY Group exhibitions : 1991 "les guichets de l' enfance" Musée de la Poste, Paris 1994 "le cintre" Hamburg, Germany Museum of Decorative Arts 2000 "L'école Française" VIA, Paris 2005 "Meubles d' Artistes" Musée de Chateauroux National collections : 2002 Mobilier national 2004 Musée d'Arts;Orléans 2005 FNAC
2006 Galerie Cat Berro, Paris
Béatrice Jarrige Caroline Berton Claire Le Douaron Claudia Steinberg Courtney Lukitsch Garret Linn Jay Yao Jeannine Falino Jérôme Godeau Karin Kohlberg Laurent Charreyron Mathieu Loisel Noelle Hoeppe Paula Caravelli Valerie Goodman Unless noted, all photographs including cover were taken by ©Karin Kohlberg In the workshop and portraits of Jacques Jarrige in Paris by ©Claire Le Douaron © Noelle Hoeppe from AD France 2005, N°49 Design by Jay Yao (Jose Campos III)
Jacques Jarrige The Searching Line