Julia Robinson on Jean Dupuy
AS A YOUNG PAINTER in post-war Paris, Jean Dupuy witnessed the rise of concrete music and electronic music while regularly showing and frequenting new galleries such as Denise René, Iris Clert, etc. In 1960, his close friendships were less with painters than with sound poets and performance-oriented artists – some from Nouveau Réalisme, others, then unclassifiable, soon joined Fluxus – including François Dufrêne, Brion Gysin, Bernard Heidsieck and Robert Filliou. Dupuy ambivalently persevered in painting until the 1960s before creating a series of ironic abstractions bordering on pop. Based on projected enlargements of elongated drops apparently stopped in the air and transposed in acrylic on a canvas, these pictorial jokes question the fetishization of the expressive brand in the dominant lyrical abstract. The parody was not lost on the keepers of this increasingly compromised “style”, including Dupuy’s former mentor, Jean Degottex, who never recovered. In 1967, Dupuy threw all his paintings in the Seine and left for New York.
As fate would have liked, Dupuy, like his compatriot Marcel Duchamp, entered the limelight of the New York art world thanks to a distinguished work at a major public exhibition. Submitted to a competition organized by Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT), The heart beats the dust, 1968 (later renamed Cone pyramid [Heart Beats Dust]), again featuring an airborne pigment – this time without paint. Inside a glass chamber, bloody particles rested on a membrane stretched over a hidden speaker. Outside, a stethoscope offered to visitors amplified their pulsations, catapulting the “dust” into a haunting and ephemeral sculpture, illuminated to highlight the eponymous form. The work, built with the help of engineer Ralph Martel, appeared in two 1968 exhibitions in New York: “The Machine Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age” at the Museum of Modern Art and “Some More Beginnings At the Brooklyn Museum. Winner of the EAT competition for “the most inventive use of new technology,” a perplexed Dupuy was sought out for print and television interviews and recruited by Ileana Sonnabend to join her gallery. Sonnabend will support the future “technological” works of Dupuy, like the large installations “Paris-Bordeaux”, 1970-1980, whose powerful sound Dupuy captured on the scale of the room by dropping a microphone in the toilets of a train. which rushed between the two. cities. Little fuel, 1970, resonates today for its politicization of an opportunity offered by the “Art and Technology” initiative of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1966-1971), which attached art to the military-industrial complex at its strongest. of the Vietnam War. Partnered with Indiana-based manufacturing giant Cummins, whose diesel engines had dominated the military market for decades, Dupuy asked the company to make him a working but useless engine. Seeing the engine running at full tilt but going nowhere or doing nothing, viewers grasped the subversive intent. A Pyrex observation chamber revealed the pollution – toxic black diesel particles – that Cummins engines released into the atmosphere. Embarrassing the business and the museum, Little fuel was removed from the show shortly after opening.
Artists remember Dupuy’s New York years for the many group exhibitions and performance programs he organized between 1973 and 1983 at the Kitchen, Judson Church, 112 Greene Street, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. , among others. Each event is structured by a given formal constraint, which becomes a signature premise of both collective activity and Dupuy’s own art. The “About 405 East 13th Street” exhibitions took the architecture of his loft as an invitation, generating intelligent and modest interventions. Gordon Matta-Clark focused on the many windows in space – opaque under decades of grime – and only cleaned one window. Another device, Dupuy’s infamous lazy-Susan “rotating scene”, which limited artists’ actions to nearly one meter in diameter, prompted Simone Forti to show her first hologram, angel, 1976. The choice was brilliant, the revolutions of the scene echoing both the turning in circles which captured its movements on the plexiglass cylinder and the circumambulation necessary to see the image on the hologram as a sculpture. The sheer scale of Dupuy’s event attendees – Laurie Anderson, Kathryn Bigelow, Michael Smith, Yvonne Rainer, Joan Jonas, Hannah Wilke, Alison Knowles, Guy de Cointet, George Maciunas, Philip Glass and Richard Serra – remains remarkable. Obviously, the Dupuy events were not Fluxus, but they were only programs to which Maciunas has contributed outside of the collective. Note in this regard a performance from 1976 that Dupuy staged in TriBeCa with his life partner, Olga Adorno (who had played in the early events of Robert Whitman and Claes Oldenburg and in Andy Warhol. 13 most beautiful women, 1964): The two approached in the street, undressed and got dressed. Maciunas chose this room, Clothing exchange, for her wedding in 1978, relishing the opportunity to become the bride.
In the final analysis, of course, an artist’s place in history rarely rests on collaborations; rather, it is determined by the meaning, quality and consistency of the independent work. By this measure, the body of work on which Dupuy’s legacy is based awaits a wider recognition which will certainly come; here I am referring to his extensive series of anagram paintings based on the linguistic-chromatic system that he invented and developed over four decades. Taking paper or canvas, Dupuy cut his field in two, Large glass–Style – the upper part containing a palette of words for the colors it would distribute poetically, without remainder, in the lower part. Post-Duchampian and post-conceptual, Dupuy’s anagram paintings transport the reader along the multisensory passages, conveying tastes, scents and events, revealing its ever-renewable elementary code in the process of its kaleidoscopic illumination.
Julia Robinson is a curator and art historian who teaches in the Department of Art History at New York University.