Page 16 - Studio International - May 1966
P. 16

Dubuffet's earliest supporters, flushed with enthusiasm,   of history by one absolute act. 'It's not what an artist
                              have obscured them. I am thinking of the excited, windy  does, but what he is . . .'
                              jargon of Michel Tapie—but the first issue that interests   With Jean Dubuffet, the problem is more intricate. To
                              me about Dubuffet was expressed, succinctly, by the  classify a style involves relating it to another style. It
                              French critic Georges Limbour in his introduction to the   implies awareness of history. Picasso was acutely con-
                              ICA show. Noting the complexities of Dubuffet's work and   scious of his mask as culture-hero—that is to say, as the
                              its 'contradictions of mood', Limbour nevertheless dis-  interpreter who rewired the silent past for sound with
                              covered a 'unifying purpose', which was :          every homage he paid to Velasquez, Delacroix or Ingres.
                               ... a dedication to total liberty from all rules and conventions   But Dubuffet rejects that role. He would like to escape
                               of representation and a deliberate, anarchistic determination   European history altogether. The past oppresses him.
      Right                     to reject all previous knowledge—in short, to re-invert his   Originality means innocence. And yet his paintings are no
      Halte et répit (Stop and take   art and his methods for every new production.   less eclectic than Picasso's. They are full of rules, conven-
      breath) 1956             This phantom, the Artist as Noble Savage, is the form   tions and accepted signs taken over from other art forms:
      Indian ink with collage of
      prints                  under which Dubuffet nearly always appears. Let us look   child art, madmen's art, graffiti, primitive art.
      41 x 261 in.            at it.                                              This word 'eclecticism' usually sounds disparaging. I
                                                                                 don't mean it to, but then I do not see why one should
      Astravagale 1956        Some painters resist classification. Picasso, obviously: the   continue to believe in the mystique of a perpetual avant-
      Oil on canvas, collage   protean eclectic, obsessed equally with his own creative  garde.  It is fatuously optimistic to believe that a painter,
      28 1/4 x 16 3/4 in.
      Pierre Matisse Gallery,   powers and the myth of them, flailing through the past   especially a shrewd intellectual like Dubuffet, can shed
      New York                in order to prove that he can break down all the categories   himself of 'all previous knowledge' — Limbour's phrase—
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