Ben, whose real name is Benjamin Vautier, is a French artist of Swiss origin, born in Naples in July 1935 and who lives in Nice where his family settled when he was 14.
It is thanks to his second-hand record store where he decorated the facade that he met from 1958 to 1972 future great names of contemporary art such as César, Martial Raysse, Arman, Ives Klein.
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Although very close to the new realism that was born in 1960 under the pen of Klein, Ben was very much influenced by the letterism of Isidore Isou in 1945. Too young at the birth of this movement, this influence remains one of the most remarkable in his work. After the transportation of his store to the museum of modern art, he made his house, a masterpiece of art brut, the new meeting place and meetings of nonsense that defines him so well.
In the 1980's he was the origin of the name given to the group formed around Robert Combas in France: Figuration libre, and which corresponds, in the United States, to the Bad Painting of Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, ... His reflections, displacements, illustrations, projects, activities are noted on his website from 1996 to nowadays, in a narcissistic and ironic way, which inscribes his relation with technological art.
Ben and Fluxus
Thus influenced by Lettrism, Surrealism and Dada, which affect poetry, words, as well as painting, he joined the Fluxus group in Germany in 1960. This one corresponds to his thirst for humor and especially to the abolition of the barriers between everyday life and art.
Humorous or sarcastic messages are maxims in which he believes, or thoughts that cross his mind at a specific moment, and in which everyone can recognize themselves. His humor helps to poetize the life around us and to take a fresh look at it.
They are characterized by a limited respect of syntax and the systematic use of white handwritten text on a black background. His medium is cold and does not take into account a particularly touching aestheticism, it escapes any traditional art form.
His attached and childish writing, readable by all, is generally composed of few words which form an appeal to the reader. In this sense, his message is mainly addressed to the eye and not to the mind. He apostrophizes the spectator in the crowd of visuals around him, and exploits him by multiplying the print of his texts. He illustrates numerous agendas, calendars, school kits and other stationery objects, which gives a commercial aspect to his work that a work of art rarely has.
Whether it is the poetization of life or the extreme trivialization of art, one wonders where the social question or the utopia that animates every artist has gone in Ben's practice today.