“the matter of our works”
galerie Azzedine Alaïa, Paris
text by DONATIEN GRAU
Pierre Guyotat is widely considered one of today’s most significant and radical authors. From his early Tombeau Pour Cinq Cent Mille Soldats (Tomb for 500,000 Soldiers) in 1967 and Eden, Eden, Eden (1970) to Joyeux Animaux de la Misère (Merry Animals of Misery), published in 2014 and currently being translated into English, Guyotat has created a world based on the world and a language based on language that are completely new and yet completely rooted in tradition. A leading figure of experimental writing, he has inspired the work of many visual artists.
Such was the premise of the exhibition “Pierre Guyotat: La Matière de Nos Œuvres” (“Pierre Guyotat: The Matter of Our Works”), presented in spring 2016 at Galerie Azzedine Alaïa, the couturier’s personal nonprofit exhibition space in Paris. Guyotat’s manuscripts, lent by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, were juxtaposed with works by his admirers, including Daniel Buren, Jean-Luc Moulène, Paul McCarthy, Klaus Rinke, Cerith Wyn Evans, and many others.
But the real discovery of the exhibition was the author’s erotic drawings. As he describes in his book Arrière-fond (In the Deep), Guyotat hesitated in his youth between be- ing a poet and a painter. He had a talent for drawing and actively practiced it throughout his teens. His work has remained consistently visual ever since, and he contin- ued making drawings until the 1980s; some of his visual pieces have become famous, such as the watercolor on the cover of Eden, Eden, Eden.
On the occasion of the exhibition, Guyotat began to make drawings again. These unique works, made during the win- ter of 2015-16 and early spring 2016, swiftly and freely offer insights into his creative world. With a few lines, he made a body; with dots of color, he added humor. Moving between abstraction and figuration, between the uniqueness of the individual and the stakes of the group, the drawings force viewers to question themselves about their beliefs, their acceptations, their relation to their humanity.
He is a modernist hero in the lineage of Baudelaire, Verlaine, Antonin Artaud, and so many luminaries who could both draw and make extraordinary poetry, who shared the mission of intervening “with muscle” into the world. The issue is not whether he is an artist as well as poet. Rather, everything comes from the poetic world he lives in and that he has created, a world in which sexuality — as with Foucault, who admired him so much — is never as much about sex as it is about who we are. These drawings, reminiscent of those of Toulouse-Lautrec and Gauguin as well as Egon Schiele or Picasso, are doorways to Guyotat’s epic phantasmagory.