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Jean Dubuffet (b. 1901, Le Havre, France; d. 1985, Paris, France) is widely recognised as the most innovative artist of post-war France. He studied art at the Académie Julian in Paris, before leaving school in 1919 to pursue an independent form of art education. Like many of his generation in Europe in the wake of World War II, Dubuffet sought artistic authenticity outside tradition, in the margins of society. He looked to the art of prisoners, psychics, the uneducated and the insane to liberate his own creativity. He coined the term ‘Art Brut’, a predecessor to outsider art of the late 1940s. In his view, mainstream culture would systematically appropriate and sterilise artistic developments, therefore authentic art could only be created spontaneously, without concern for an audience. In 1944, Dubuffet met Brassaï and had his first solo exhibition at Galerie René Drouin in Paris, which was met with much controversy in its demonstration of his ‘anti-art’ ideology. The following year, he began work on a set of lithographs titled Les murs, fifteen of which were published to accompany poems by Eugène Guillevic. In 1951, Dubuffet delivered his ground-breaking lecture, ‘Anticultural Positions’, at the Arts Club in Chicago. In 1973, the Fondation Dubuffet was established and a major retrospective held at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Other important exhibitions have included the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, in 1991; the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in 2001, and the Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, in 2003.

Spanish painter, Manolo Millares (b. 1926, Las Palmas, Canary Islands; d. 1972, Madrid, Spain), is renowned for his dramatic ‘collages’ made with burlap sackcloth. Sometimes unpainted, the burlap is stretched taut with pieces sewn together roughly to create tears and voids. Vital, gestural paintwork, in sombre tones of black, white and red, is often spattered and dripped across the surfaces of his paintings. Millares’ work is deeply rooted in his knowledge of the pre-history of the Canary Islands, in particular that of the aboriginal inhabitants, the Guanches. Embalmed corpses of this pre-Hispanic people were known to him from the extensive displays housed in the Museo Canario in Las Palmas. He combined traditional references and pre-history with direct, contemporary expression. A cofounder of the avant-garde movement El Paso, Millares was associated with the Art Informel, which emphasised formal experimentation and political engagement, and was largely responsible for a renewed interest in modern Spanish art. He developed his own visual language inspired by petrograms painted by the Guanches, whose organic forms on cave walls he reconciled with the automatism of the Surrealists. In 1957, Millares’ participation in the Venice Biennale brought international recognition, and his work entered the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Tate Gallery, London; and the Galleria Nazionale, Rome. In 1971, a major solo exhibition of his work was held at the Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris.

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Profile for Waddington Custot

Writings on the Wall  

Writings on the Wall