The New Wash


Context counts in the viewing of art. Curators in two Paris venues, the Palais de Tokyo and the Grand Palais have asked us to reconsider a common context for a few practices usually kept apart.


Among the exhibitions at the Palais de Tokyo are two shows that connect. One revolves around Raymond Roussel, a séminal figure to the Dada movement and to contemporary artists in the lineage. Another is a survey of the Venezuelan kinetic artist Julio le Parc. These are two very different shows in appearance, le Parc is technical and machined, physically interactive and optically based. The Roussel respondents are visually obtuse and often obscure in a literary way.


From another angle the visual experience of le Parc is a deeply romantic psychedelia with hypnotic effect, while the best of Roussel’s correspondents carry their master’s logical clarity into a puzzling but deductive visual experience.

Roussel’s major piece of writing: New Impressions of Africa, took fifteen years to finish. He began it as a soldier in 1917, it’s strange to think that he might have been writing while waiting in the northern European trenches such lines as: Though the sun had passed its zenith, the heat remained stifling in that region of equatorial Africa, and we all sweltered in the sultry atmosphere that no breeze came to relieve (translation Mark Ford). It’s illustrated in the style of a fantasy Jules Verne but statements are wrapped and extended by brackets to create densely packed meanings in need of cryptographic reading.


Le Parc is an important figure in op and kinetic art, for the most part he has worked in France, Paris curators seem bent on bringing the lineage of this movement back to France by including within it a more complex aesthetic heritage than is normally associated with it. He is also a featured artist in a huge survey of art concerned with light and space at the Grand Palais.


Dynamo takes as it’s departure point forms of environmental expansion that modern art developed from 1913 onwards to explode the pictorial into the space of the viewer.


I usually think of kinetic art as a last gasp of utopian psychedelia, but here the generalized, neutral forms of modernism such as the cloud, the circle, stripes, and the grid are proposed as forms with underlying emotional or metaphysical impact, the physical swarm of a cloud of marks for example is associated with the abyss in the curatorial theme of this show.


I was particularly interested in the inclusion of Spring Cool from 1962 a major work by Kenneth Noland, an important artist often sidelined these days along with other American Colour Field painters.


His circle paintings in particular create a complex bridge between a machined and an organic, improvised logic. This painting has an emotional impact insofar as it is a kind of mechanically fixed memory of an atmospheric space where colour is the primary form of allusion.


It was striking to see such an array of mechanical and geometric work stemming from early modernist interest in the fourth dimension, machines working towards a transcendent emotional impact.


For the most part the kinetic and more purely optical work presents spectacles that the viewer can take or leave depending on the level of fatigue induced by the scale of the show. However with works that offer a distillation of optics, scale and aesthetic complexity one is locked into a coexistence in which visual depth results from a two way interaction.


About nameerdavis

I'm drawn to the crowd and the culture it foments.
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3 Responses to The New Wash

  1. painter12 says:

    Thanks for informative update, feeling the excitement of Paris.


  2. james rogers says:

    Hi Nameer,

    You are back with a great piece here.The ‘Blue String’ crowd/cloud was timely. Great shots of people at an exhibition. I think I saw that Nolan too, but at the Pompidou. Well thought out understanding of the mechanical and the memory of atmosphere that is alluded to. Maybe you could write something for my show coming up. Probably don’t have time and I won’t force a change of concentration. Have you time to go to the ‘Guimet’. I think that is how it was spelt. A great collection of S.E.Asian sculpture. particularly Khmer. Last year when I finally unpacked my boxes after leaving Stanmore in’95, I was a little empty in reflection, unable to find my diary of USA and France from ’93. No cameras either back then. There was one or two other venues with medieval wood carving that I can still picture but can’t recall which place. New aboriginal piece going onto a roof top in Paris on the news. Can be seen from the top of the tower. Same venue as other major public works by aboriginal artists. Bold new building. Warming up yet? Wire brush and wax happening here.

    Regards, James.

    Date: Mon, 29 Apr 2013 21:45:31 +0000 To:


  3. nameerdavis says:

    Thanks for the comment, we didn’t get to the Guimet museum, the collection from Indochina would be as good as any I imagine with that great articulation of volume. Speaking of which we did see the Bourdelle museum, archetypal artist of the state, rhetorical but also a real builder. Also came across the monument by Rude to Marshall Ney, a very energetic figure in a language still engaged with the living subject. Regarding the writing, If you send me an image or two I’ll see what comes, we should be settled for a little while next week.


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