Musée des Arts Contemporains de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles

Jacques Charlier. Paintings for all

 

Invited by MAC’s for a major exhibition dedicated to him, Jacques Charlier ironically responds with this advertising slogan: paintings for all! "Italian paintings", "fractal paintings" and "indescribable paintings" are the flagship titles of this jukebox-like exhibition. The aim? To show off their colours, and escape into this ‘radical eclecticism’ in the market, which artists who always use the same ‘tubes’ epitomise. A method? Caricature and pastiche which he administers in such a masterly fashion to the art world, like a spanking. His catchphrase? Spare the rod, spoil the child: because paintings enchant Charlier as much as they disillusion him.

The MAC’s Exhibition

This exhibition is a beautiful monographic homage to one of the greatest contemporary Belgian artists. It brings together around fifty recent paintings, several caricatures, and a video from the 1970s, as well as an all-new installation in the square room that was produced by the MAC’s. This installation is an optical illusion chamber inspired by the one invented by the American ophthalmologist Adelbert Ames in 1946, which Jacques Charlier had made by the Museum for displaying paintings. With this installation, reminiscent of a fairground attraction, Jacques Charlier hypothesizes that art history is based on a system of illusions. To him, the art world forces us to observe the current art scene according to a forced perspective that deforms reality and thus true art. From his critical perspective, an artist is not necessarily “great” because of high ratings in the market or greater popularity in the media. It is this mirage, this manipulation, even this “conspiracy” as some detractors of contemporary art might call it, that the painter-trickster does his utmost to deconstruct with his Ames room, in order to re-educate our gaze.

Jacques Charlier, historic artist

Jacques Charlier began his career at the dawn of the sixties by joining in with the great movements of the 1960s, including Pop Art. With his associate Marcel Broodthaers, an heir to surrealism 15 years his senior, he practiced the American avant-garde styles overrunning the Parisian galleries, while adapting to his Belgian identity. Jacques Charlier reacted in a conceptual and analytical way. With Broodthaers, he patronised the most visible Belgian galleries, full of minimalist and conceptual art. There, he met and made friends with Kosuth, Toroni and Buren. Beginning in 1975, Charlier went his own way to continue his career. He met the young curator Jan Hoet, with whom he would collaborate throughout his career. In 1986, Charlier participated in the legendary exhibition Chambre d’amis in Ghent, where his “Chambre d’ennemis” was one of the most talked-about installations. Charlier’s works are displayed in the Ostend Museums, at the S.M.A.K. or at the MUHKA, as well as in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. He was also one of the Belgian artists invited to Herford in the museum run by that famous Flemish curator and would be present in his last exhibition presented in Geel shortly before his death.

Charlier’s journey revisits art history while continually remaining at the forefront of current creative developments involving all forms of media. Charlier quickly positions himself has an artist of institutional criticism, questioning the art system with dark humour and many diversions. He insatiably appropriates all forms of media: painting, caricature, photography, writing, comics, sculpture, song, video, installation... He portrays himself as a flamboyant character and plays with the codes of advertising and the media.

A fan of Warhol, he created “in the style of”, the screen print of Plastic Bertrand for whom the American star had promised to create a portrait. Jacques Charlier is simultaneously the ultimate Belgian artist and an unclassifiable experimenter, always at the avant-garde, defined by neither time nor borders.