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Herve Télémaque

”Le mot de passe?”

Hervé Télémaque (France born 1937). ”Le mot de passe?”. Signed and dated Hervé Télémaque 1966 on reverse. Oil on canvas, 96 x 130 cm.
Hervé Télémaque (France born 1937). ”Le mot de passe?”. Signed and dated Hervé Télémaque 1966 on reverse. Oil on canvas, 96 x 130 cm.

Hervé Télémaque was born in Haiti but left his hometown for the great city of New York in the late 1950’s. Compared to many historical European cities, New York had only recently been evolving into an art metropolis. Several new movements occurred including pop art and the abstract expressionism, which were dominating the art scene by the time Télémaque settled down in America. Contemporary American artists influenced his artistry to a great extend and he was simultaneously inspired by surrealism, reinterpreted by the American artists and particularly under the influence of Arshile Gorky, and the abstract expressionism. Apart from these two fields within modernism and contemporary art, it was pop art that caught his interest and in which area he truly developed as an artist and found his path.

Even though Paris was loosing its reputation as the main art capital in the world to the larger and more adventurous city of New York, Télémaque decided to leave for the French capital in 1961. “Paris attracted me in 1961, whereas New York, a city imbued with racism, disappointed me. Confronted with the lack of a critical view of society by American painters from the pop art generation, aside from James Rosenquist, I decided to leave New York and move permanently to Paris.”

In the mid and late 1960’s, he emptied out his canvases so that the isolated objects could float against white or coloured backgrounds. Only two years before he painted the work included in this sale “Le mot de passe?” and in collaboration with the art critic Gérald Gassiot-Talabot and the painter Rancillac, Télémaque organized the exhibition “Mythologies quotidiennes” at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris. The show presented an alternative to abstract art but most importantly, it emphasized a critical perspective on consumer society particularly recognizable in the America he had left behind him. His paintings are often insisting on a closer look rather than being looked at in a glance, consisting of numerous hidden messages and references to historical moments. As a leading figure of “the Narrative Figuration movement” together with Rancillac and the American painter Peter Saul, he retained a way of always improvising his paintings yet remained a social and political commentator through his works and throughout his artistic career.

The painting included in this auction, “Le mot de passe?”, was painted in 1966 during his period in France, at a time when he completely devoted himself to painting and truly flourished as an artist. Without being personally involved in the movement of surrealism, he was introduced to the main surrealistic representatives in France and his scenery evolved under the influence of advertisements, commercial packages, comic books, daily street life and news paper layouts which is clearly expressed in the vivid painting included in this sale. The presence of symbols and objects usually seen in ordinary situations are typical for works of art by Télémaque. In “Le mot de passe?” several items are to be found painted in bold and energetic colours. The light blue tent is the most significant element in this painting, contrasting against the red background and arranged in the centre of the image. Possibly is the title “Le mot de passe?”, which translates into “Password?”, referring to the open entrance of the tent and the cast dice next to it. Outside the tent there is a folding chair that together with the tent instantly forms the idea of camping and outdoor living. Télemaque is a true master of creating unexpected scenarios by placing different items together, inspired by cartoon and animated series but also by everyday life and being apart of a constantly changing world. His well-composed and joyful images are the expression of his own visual vocabulary. The elements included in his paintings are familiar and easy to identify but not always depicted in the most logical way, on the contrary they often tell a story that has never been told before about ordinary subjects.

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