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Ben, his real name Benjamin Vautier is a French artist of Swiss origin, born in Naples in July 1935 and living in Nice where his family settled when he was 14 years old.
It is thanks to his second-hand disc store that he decorates the facade he meets from 1958 to 1972 future great names in contemporary art as César, Martial Raysse, Arman, Ives Klein. Although very close to the new realism that was born in 1960 under the pen of Klein, Ben is very influenced by the literacy of Isidore Isou of the years 1945. Too young at the birth of this movement, this influence remains one of the most remarkable of his work .
After moving his store to the Museum of Modern Art, he made his home, masterpiece of art brut, the new meeting place and meetings of nonsense that defines it so well.
In the year 1980 it will be the origin of the name given to the group formed around Robert Combas in France: Figuration free, and which corresponds, in the United States, to the Bad Painting of Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, ...
His thoughts, travels, illustrations, projects, activities are noted on his website from 1996 to the present, in a narcissistic and ironic way, which marks his relationship with technological art.
Ben and Fluxus
Thus influenced by the letterism, the surrealism and dada which touch as well the poetry, the words, as the painting, it adheres in 1960, in Germany, to the Fluxus group.
This one corresponds to his thirst for humor and especially to the abolition of the barriers between everyday life and art.
Like disruptions in everyday life, he uses the post office and traditional communications networks to spread his vision and play freely with letters, phonetics and poetry.
His paintings, although painted on canvas and reasonable format, remain on the fringe of traditional painting because they represent nothing more than what can be read.
On the other hand, his style is born from this period, where he illustrates the school and the blackboard on which a child writes.
He even illustrates what he says when possible: '' I can do everything '' 1971 Acrylic on canvas, 86 x 116 cm, private collection. At that moment he really acts thanks to his misspelling. We can talk about performance in the sense that saying it is equivalent to doing it.
At the same time, he multiplies the actions by signing everything: "I sign everything that surrounds me. Objects, girls, any pebble on the beach »
1962, thus denouncing the megalomania of artists, and the competition between them to stand out.
Great disciple of Duchamp, and in this great provocative sense, he will exhibit a bottle of urine labeled at the Grand Palais during the exhibition ''72, twelve years of contemporary art in France' '; which puts the work into the institutional context.
His work is most often embodied in objects like God, put in box, (which he signs) which is thrown into the sea. He participates however in the destruction of the art: "I undersigned Ben Vautier declares authentic work of art: the absence of art. 1963.
It helps to explode the work of art, or what it means, and invites the object out of the museum to use it.
In his practice of performance, let us note the beginning of the trauma inflicted on the body with 1969 "To bang the head against the walls" until the blood of Ben stains the wall, and that its pain is intolerable.
His writings: humorous or sarcastic messages are maxims he believes in, or thoughts that cross his mind at a specific moment, and in which everyone can recognize himself. Her humor helps to poise the life around us and to take a fresh look at it.
They are characterized by a limited respect for 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 aesthetics, it escapes any traditional form of art.
Her handwritten and childlike writing, readable by all, is usually composed of few words that form an appeal to the reader. In this sense, his message is aimed primarily at the eye and not the thought. He addresses the spectator in the crowd of visuals around him, and exploits him by multiplying the print of his texts.
He illustrates many agendas, calendars, school kits and other stationery, which gives a commercial aspect to his work, which rarely has a work of art.
Poetry of life or extreme trivialization of art, one wonders where the social question or utopia that animates each artist, in the practice of Ben today.