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exhibition: Three Works by Marcel Broodthaers

date: 8 March - 15 April 2006

Between 8 March and 15 April 2006, Peter Freeman, Inc. will exhibit three rare works by Belgian avant-garde artist, Marcel Broodthaers. Although all three of these major works were each included in important Broodthaers retrospectives (Tate 1980; Walker Art Center 1989; Jeu de Paume, Paris 1991) the three have never been exhibited together before, and one of them, Le Sujet, is being shown for the first time in the United States.

Marcel Broodthaers (1924-1976) was a Belgian poet who turned to the visual arts in 1962 when he was forty. In the brief 12 years before he died, Broodthaers created a broad and influential body of work dealing with object, text, history, museology, and identity (particularly Belgian identity) within a new Europe that was being profoundly redefined through new, radical art. Broodthaers rapidly established himself as one of the most original artists of his day, and his influence on younger artists both in Europe and the United States is still present.

Chapeau blanc (1965) is a paradox of sculpture and painting–a play between noble and mundane materials, between representation and reality. It is an enigmatic piece, unique in Broodthaers' production. The hat itself is a specific homage to Broodthaers' friend Josef Beuys, the German artist, while also being a clear echo of René Magritte's iconic bowler hat (Magritte was another friend). The hole in the hat recalls a common nineteenth-century European image symbolizing poverty, especially of the impoverished artist. But the hole also turns the hat into something of eye with the hole its pupil; the eye peers out at us arousing our curiosity and inviting us to look inside: the viewer becomes a voyeur.

L'Erreur (1966) is a major work that is one of the most important paintings to combine objects and language. Attaching real egg shells to the painting in a purposefully Minimalist grid, labeling them "mussels" and then titling the whole work "Mistake" is the perfect confluence of all of Broodthaers' aims.
It is a rich work that operates on many levels, not least of which is a play on art history, for it is very much the artist's own direct answer to Magritte's "Ceci ce n'est pas une pipe [This is Not a Pipe]" as well as a comment on what is typically Belgian: mussels and eggs.

In 1972, Broodthaers began a series of nine-canvas paintings composed entirely of text, of which Le Sujet (1973) is the most significant. A subtle but graphic topography of French words relate the practice of painting with the work itself: the technical devices deployed by the artist (brush, easel, stretcher), the elements of "subject" (hair, skin, nails, figures), stylistic components of a work (perspective, image, composition, color), and even the art market (price, value). This piece was also a foundation for La Salle Blanche, the decor created by Marcel Broodthaers for the Rothschild family in Paris.