An exponent of the new generation of French artists, Jean-Baptiste Maitre has already met with a certain success in Europe through his work, which may be described as a reassessment of modernist aesthetics with regard to today’s cultural needs.
In the 1960s and 1970s — a period of continuous experimentation that may be termed ‘modernist’ — the artwork, on the one hand, lost the specificity that tradition had established, but, on the other hand, it acquired new forms of identity thanks to the artists themselves, together with theorists, art historians, aestheticians and so on. Thus the work received a variety of definitions — as many as there were points of view regarding it, or, to put it another way, the number of conceptual mediations interposing themselves between the observers and their direct perception of the work.
We could say that it is precisely in these mediations that Maitre intervenes: that is, in the theoretical and programmatic propositions that constitute the work itself and also in the process of media coverage that it must necessarily undergo in order to become widely known. Photographic reproductions published in catalogues, books and magazines have often been — and still are — the principal way the public is able to see the work, constituting, in this case too, the mediation between the work, in all its concreteness, and the observer’s experience.
On each occasion, the artist avails himself of a series of cross-references that are notable for their subtlety and irony. In his first solo exhibition in Italy, Maitre has reconsidered and recontextualized works — and creative processes — by Robert Morris and Joseph Kosuth, and also aniconic painting and documentary photography; in addition he makes a reference to the explanatory logic of the educational departments of modern art museums. Thus we shall see one of Morris’s sculptures presented in the form of a film, a neon sign that is, in fact, a ceramic bas-relief, a number of photographs representing paintings and a sculpture executed by the artist following to the letter the description given by a museum audio guide.
Rather than the formal and structural aspect of the modernist work, what interests Maitre — and makes his work interesting and original — is the combination of mechanisms on which the processes of its artistic legitimation are based. These are, in other words, the systems of attribution of value of the past as well as those of the present, because Maitre implicitly compares them in order to test their historical, social and cultural validity.
Opening: Thurday, November 17th 2011, 6.30pm