The canvas is free*
‘I cut into the fabric of the painting, textually: firstly into this relative History - truth within a mentality - and secondly into the painted fabric, which is both the image and the model for this imaginary history. Its reassembly, with its long seams, is, at its core, senseless. Neither right nor left, neither up nor down; neither a before nor an after could be added to it’
Marcel Alocco, born in 1937 in Nice, is a name which stands out within the contemporary art scene, and one which has left a unique mark on the artistic developments of these last few decades. As an artist, writer, and poet, Alocco has created a powerful inner-world, full of humanism, and which the mainstream conversation about contemporary art has ignored. His visionary contribution to it, however, has always been recognised by art critics like Catherine Millet, and has recently gained some deserved recognition: a show of his works at the Centre Pompidou, currently on display at the Museum.
Close with the Ecole de Nice, he first became associated with the Fluxus movement in the 1960s, then with Ben Vautier in 1958, and with George Brecht in 1965. He helped in theorising the Supports/Surfaces movement, which advocated for the deconstruction of painting, and was a way of thinking that led him to paint the inscription “Seule vraie peinture” (”Only true painting”) on a can of industrial paint in 1968, a piece which is now a part of the Centre Pompidou’s collection.
The years 1968 to 1973 were an intense creative period for him, during which Alocco increased his exploration of the medium and the status of the artist. As the curator Laurence Imbernon so rightly says, "Between variations and forms, Alocco makes choices; he has reinvented Chinese with the creation of Ideogrammaire. A beautiful term, a mixing of “ideogram” and the vocabulary of art. The emergence of his painted work, in 1966, was being created at a time when linguistics was taking hold, while conceptual artists were using language to make the components of art visible at the same time as that was becoming an integral part of it.”
One could say that this Ideogrammaire is a work of free associations of forms and words dealing with the appearance of meaning, when the task itself becomes form, until it reaches the abstract sign of writing imbued with the developments of linguistics and semiology, being developed around the same period.
From 1973 onwards, the "Fragments de la Peinture en Patchwork" and “Détissages" followed, where the canvas became a sheet, a symbol of domesticity, but also a protective envelope. He would fold a fabric into several rectangles or squares, paint each section, then tear them apart, fragmenting it at random from the straight grain. After mixing them together, he would assemble them and sew a part of them with large, visible stitches, leaving some fragments to hang freely around the patchwork creation. The new set, studded with cultural images looking to be deciphered, was described by Alocco as follows: "What is there here? Paint on fabric. Matter and colour, that's all. The image is just passing through.”
The frame disappears, and the work escapes any simple wall-ready classification.
* Coutures, Michel Butor, published for the Marcel Alocco exhibition at the Alain Oudin gallery, Voixpublications, Paris, 1989
** Patchwork, Alexandre de La Salle gallery catalogue, December 1974
© Grégory Copitet