mercoledì 15 febbraio 2012

Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault - Gerard Fromanger, Photogenic Painting (Black Dog, 1999) - Reviewed by Brian Rajski @ The Voice Imitator

Photogenic Painting packages together a lengthy introduction and two essays by Deleuze and Foucault on Gerard Fromanger, a French hyperrealist painter whom one of the editors calls “the political artist of 1968 and its aftermath.” The volume also offers a generous collection of images of Fromanger’s paintings, which are relatively unknown outside France. Fromanger was friends with the two philosophers and painted magnificent portraits of them, as well as of other French intellectuals, including Guattari and Sartre. Deleuze and Foucault return the favor in their critical “portraits” of Fromanger, sharpening their respective theoretical frameworks into supportive introductions to his work. Deleuze’s essay, “Cold and Heat,” is perhaps a bit too abstract. Deleuze argues that “Fromanger’s model is the commodity.” In the world Fromanger paints, everything has been “rendered in the terms of the single model, the Commodity, which circulates with the painter.”
Rather than reject the model of the commodity, or attempt to criticize it from supposed point of externality, Fromanger works wholly within the “system of indifferences in which exchange-value circulates.” In his paintings, he manipulates the relational potential of the hotness and coldness of different colors, creating “connections,” ”disjunctions,” and “conjunctions” between different elements of the paintings. Deleuze praises this “mobilisation of indifferents” for its “radical absence of bitterness, of the tragic, of anxiety, of all this drivel you get in the fake great painters who are called witnesses to their age.” He concludes, “From what is ugly, repugnant, hateful and hateable he knows how to bring out the colds and hots which produce a life for tomorrow. We can imagine the cold revolution as having to heat the over-heated world of today.”

Foucault’s essay, “Photogenic Painting,” is the better contribution, a remarkably clear and insightful text that makes one wish that Foucault would have written more in the way of art criticism. Foucault’s argument is especially relevant today, as images are increasingly remediated as they circulate throughout digital networks. Foucault takes issue with the modernist attempt to purify painting of everything but its own essence. Instead, he finds inspiration in the early decades of photography, a period when photographers playfully indulged in a wide variety of “operations” on their images, many of which, such as painting directly on the photographs, undermined the border between photography and painting. Confronted today with political and commercial control over images, we need to learn once again how to “put images into circulation, to convey them, disguise them, deform them, heat them red hot, freeze them, multiply them.” According to Foucault, “Pop Art and hyperrealism have re-taught us the love of images. Not by a return to figuration, not by a rediscovery of the object and its real density, but by plugging us in to the endless circulation of images.” “Pop artists and hyperrealists paint images,” but not images that are meant to accurately represent reality. These images are “relays” that transmit photographic images, further circulating them in a form that retains the traces of this act of translation and circulation between media. Foucault considers Fromanger an exemplary hyperrealist who is ahead of the game. Fromanger creates a painting by taking a photo, projecting this photo on the canvas, and then directly painting over the projected image. His photos are not deliberately composed, but rather record a “photo-event.” According to Foucault, Fromanger attempts “To create a painting-event on the photo-event. To generate an event that transmits and magnifies the other, which combines with it and gives rise, for all those who come to look at it, and for every particular gaze that comes to rest on it, to an infinite series of new passages.” When the photographic projection is turned off, the painting must “sustain” the image; its function is not to fix the image once and for all, but to help it to continue to circulate, beyond the original photograph. “The function of the photo-slide projection-painting sequence present in every painting is to ensure the transit of an image. Each painting is a thoroughfare; a ‘snap’ which rather than fixing the movement of things in a photograph, animates, concentrates and magnifies the movement of the image through its successive supporting media.” Fromanger can therefore take a single photograph, a single photographic event, and relay its image in different ways through a series of paintings. Foucault concludes, “We are now coming out of the long period during which painting always minimized itself as painting in order to ‘purify’ itself, to sharpen and intensify itself as art. Perhaps with the new ‘photogenic’ painting it is at last coming to laugh at that part of itself which sought the intransitive gesture, the pure sign, the ‘trace’. Here it agrees to become a thoroughfare, an infinite transition, a busy and crowded painting. And in opening itself up to so many events that it relaunches, it incorporates all the techniques of the image: it re-establishes its relationship with them, to connect to them, to amplify them, to multiply them, to disturb them or deflect them.”

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