The artist Jacques Villeglé died on Monday June 6 in Paris at the age of 96, the Center Pompidou announced on Tuesday. His name and his work are inseparable from the New Realism movement and those of Raymond Hains (1926-2005), both of whom were together the inventors of poster design, the raw material of which is found, as the name suggests, on city walls.
Born March 27, 1926 in Quimper under the name of Jacques Mahé de la Villeglé, later abbreviated to Villeglé, he enrolled in 1944 at the School of Fine Arts in Rennes, where he soon met Hains, his exact contemporary. In 1947, when he was now an architecture student in Nantes, he worked in Saint-Malo, where the traces of the Second World War and the Atlantic Wall abounded, from which he began to collect debris. Those are the Steel wires-Chaussée des Corsaires, which Hains has repeatedly said heralded New Realism ten years in advance. They are indeed found objects, ready-made, therefore, insofar as the intervention of the artist is limited to their collection and their staging, according to the principles of Marcel Duchamp; but they are chosen for their expressive power, contrary to the indifference claimed by Duchamp.
Having given up architecture in 1949, Villeglé moved to Paris, where Hains had already exhibited his indecipherable photographs taken with a fluted glass lens, the hypnagogoscope, and where they shared a studio until 1954. Their first joint work dates from the same year: Ach Alma Manetro, a frieze of lacerated posters mounted on canvas 2.56 meters long. The words are difficult to read, their superimposing impenetrable and the main idea of poster design already present: to tear from the walls and palisades traces of all the news of the moment, degraded by rain or passers-by. The intervention must be limited to tearing and laceration, which reveals the overlapping of papers.
From that moment until his last operations of this type, half a century later, in 2001, Villeglé did not compromise on these rules and made this method the instrument of a chronicle of contemporary France. In these samples, which are titled with the street and the date of their capture, there are countless political allusions, from the Algerian war to May-68 and subsequent presidential campaigns; so many allusions to the most varied commercial advertisements, including those for the “pink minitel”; social reasons, such as the ball at the Ecole Polytechnique; and artistic subjects, from posters for exhibitions of ancient or contemporary art, including New Realism itself.
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