Sat 18 Mar 2023 to Sat 22 Apr 2023
8 Avenue Matignon, 75008 Bernar Venet: Diffeomorphism and Discontinuity
Artist: Bernar Venet
Perrotin presents the exhibition Diffeomorphism and Discontinuity, marking its new collaboration with Bernar Venet, a leading figure in contemporary sculpture and a pioneer of conceptual art. Often mentioned as the most internationally exhibited French artist since the 1960’s, Venet received the International Sculpture Center’s Life Achievement Award in 2016 and was named “Artist of the Year 2022” by The American Friends of the Israel Museum, following John Baldessari, James Rosenquist, and Jeff Koons.
The exhibition showcases the full range of his prolific oeuvre combining sculptures, reliefs, paintings, drawings, and engravings. Presented across the three spaces of Perrotin, this major event is a celebration of one of the most important artists of his generation, featuring recent works never before exhibited in Paris.
Born in 1941, Bernar Venet has been radically redefining the boundaries of art for over sixty years. Although best known for his often monumental Corten-steel Angles, Arcs, and Indeterminate Lines that divide and traverse space, he works in a multitude of media, which he connects according to a principle of equivalence. Oscillating between the precision of mathematics and the unpredictability of chance, his work revolves around order and disorder, probing the limits of geometry and abstraction.
The gallery space at 76 rue de Turenne is entirely dedicated to his recent paintings, with a particular emphasis on his pictorial activity. Created in 2022, Trajectoires paraboliques gravitaires, a set of round paintings on a white background, is a nod to his early conceptual work, recalling the aesthetics of his Diagrams. Similar to these works from 1966, the artist adopted the unambiguous language of mathematics to produce a completely new form of painting. Filled with diagrams, and equations, his paintings take abstraction to a level unprecedented in the history of art. The artist uses the concept of “monosemy” – derived from the semiologist Jacques Bertin – to describe his art: “My work uses signs that are essentially monosemic, and which, in contrast to those in previous works of art, have only one level of meaning”. (1)
His new paintings experiment with the precision of linguistic content and the illegibility of its presentation. For his latest series, Difféomorphismes, the artist digitally distorts complex scientific texts to further disrupt their legibility. The earlier Saturations series followed the same logic, layering mathematical formulas and symbols to the point of incomprehensibility, creating a sense of confusion that contrasts with the logic of the reproduced formulas.
The space Saint-Claude confronts visitors with the key element of Bernar Venet’s work: the line. Like a refined diagram, the latter gradually escapes the scientific universe and the canvas to become an independent entity in space. Freed from mathematical rigor, the line crisscrosses the exhibition space in multiple forms: relief, sculpture, and drawing. The series GRIB and Lignes indéterminées feature unplanned distortions, the result of uncontrolled gestures, emphasizing the place of spontaneity and unpredictability in his work. Geometrically determined but randomly arranged, the Arcs of Empilements and Effondrements create a horizontal sculpture in which chance prevails. His graphic work is not preliminary but rendered in oil pastel once his sculptures and reliefs are completed, reflecting another crucial stage in his process: the transposition of his sculptural work into the two-dimensionality of paper.
The gallery space at 8 Avenue Matignon brings together paintings, sculptures, new wooden reliefs, drawings, and recent engravings. Arcs, Angles and Lignes indéterminées, together with Difféomorphismes, offer a unique overview of the whole range of his formal laboratory. Highlighting Bernar Venet’s skill in transposing his motifs from one medium to another, this site celebrates the circularity between them. As the artist explains: “Starting from an open conceptual matrix characteristic of my work, the pieces evolve in different disciplines, opening the door to new possibilities.” (2)
Featuring recent pieces – some on show for the first time – the whole exhibition attests to the richness of a constantly expanding plastic vocabulary. Like a major retrospective of his work of the past twenty years, the selection in the three spaces traces a path across the key practices of an artist who never ceases to propose new solutions to his theoretical problems, shake up the rules, and reinvent himself.
(1) Summary answers to basic questions, 1975. In Conversion du regard : Textes et entretiens, 1975-2000, Mamco, 2000, p.34.
(2) In conversation with Jérôme Sans, 4/5