Jacques Grinberg, Michel Macréau, Maryan, Marcel Pouget: revisiting some artists of the “Nouvelle Figuration”

From 20 November 2014 to 17 January 2015

Marcel Pouget, Maryan, Jacques Grinberg, and Michel Macréau: Polad-Hardouin gallery invites you to re-discover these four emblematic painters of the “Nouvelle Figuration” (“New Figuration”). Painting, drawing, gouache, serigraphy: their media are as manifold as the graphic universes they inhabit. And yet, a common vibration radiates from their works: the omnipresence of humanity, and a fierce will to translate its most ardent and vibrant features, but also its darkest and most tragic meanders. These artists fear neither the grotesque nor caricatures to express the world that haunts them.

Readily transcending the temporal framework of the 1960s, the exhibition begins with a masterpiece by Marcel Pouget, La Salle de récréation de l’hôpital psychiatrique (1978), and with some of his pastel drawings. Through flashy and contrasting colours, luminous and multi-coloured haloes, and white-ringed figures, the self-proclaimed “psycho-painter” produced hallucinatory visions that epitomise the psyche of his subjects.

The exhibition continues under the glass roof with oil paintings and gouaches by Jacques Grinberg. His symbolic portraits, characterised by a rigorous geometry dominated by red and black colours, such as Le Mangeur de cochon, or later his Tasse de café (1996), testify to the persistence of New Figuration up to the wake of the 21st century.

Michel Macréau, whose thought-provoking universe unfolds through an unmediated, exuberant and spontaneous style, will be present with graphic works and paintings such as his humorous tribute to Mondrian. The collision of figures, graphic elements, and writing imposes an unprecedented rhythm, ahead of its time.

Finally, Maryan will occupy space no. 2 with a painting from the end of the 1950s, several pastel drawings, and black-and-white works of serigraphy, where we find the characters of an acerbic Carnival, wearing masks and insignia of power to exorcise suffering, humiliation, and death. These works, executed during the artist’s stay in New York, are exhibited for the first time at the gallery.

The expression “Nouvelle Figuration” (“New Figuration”) first appeared in 1950 in a text by painter Jean-Michel Atlan. Eleven years later, it was taken over by art critics Jean-Luc Ferrier and Michel Ragon on the occasion of two exhibitions in Paris titled Une Nouvelle figuration I&II at the gallery Mathias Fels. At the time, in a French context dominated by abstraction, painters coming from expressionist movements and from COBRA and who no longer identified with traditional figuration, invented a third way. Through the dynamic and lyrical power of abstraction, they overcame the divide with representation by proposing a fanciful universe, filled with black humour, a poetic theatre of anxiety and cruelty.

The works of Maryan and Marcel Pouget were exhibited alongside those of Asger Jorn, Francis Bacon, Paul Rebeyrolle, Bengt Lindström, and Enrico Baj. Although Michel Macréau and Jacques Grinberg (the youngest of the four) did not take part in any seminal exhibition of the movement, they are nevertheless connected to it by their acquaintances and by their common attempt to rethink figuration.

The links between this movement and the gallery Polad-Hardouin are manifold and deep-set: New Figuration artworks ARE an important part of the collection of Cérès Franco, who played a unifying role within the movement and in particular among these four artists. Her daughter, Dominique Polad-Hardouin, naturally became imbued with their aesthetics and exhibited the artists who, a few generations later, followed the path of this movement. In 2008, the collective exhibition “Nouvelle Figuration: acte III”, organised at the gallery, added a third episode to the two organised at the gallery Mathias Fels, and highlighted an artistic movement that managed to last, despite its lack of cohesion and visibility, and to influence young contemporary painters.