Tuesday, May 29, 2012

François Bard at Bertrand Delacroix Gallery

Last Friday our office closed early so I headed to Chelsea to browse the galleries. By accident I stumbled upon a show called Not Guilty by François Bard at Bertrand Delacroix, 535 West 25th Street.

For this series Bard, a French painter born in 1959, took his cue from an existentialist novel by Dino Buzzati, The Tartar Steppe. According to Wikipedia:
The plot of the novel is Drogo's lifelong wait for a great war in which his life and the existence of the fort can prove its usefulness. The human need for giving life meaning and the soldier's desire for glory are themes in the novel. Drogo is posted to the remote outpost overlooking a desolate Tartar desert; he spends his career waiting for the barbarian horde rumored to live beyond the desert. Without noticing, Drogo finds that in his watch over the fort he has let years and decades pass and that, while his old friends in the city have had children, married, and lived full lives, he has come away with nothing except solidarity with his fellow soldiers in their long, patient vigil. When finally arrives the attack by the Tartars, Drogo gets ill and the new chieftain of the fortress dismisses him. Drogo, on his way back home, dies lonely in an inn.
At a distance, the paintings look photorealistic but up close they reveal a lush painterly style built on layers and transparencies. The gallerist mentioned that the works are all oil on canvas, painted from life, and are mostly self portraits as well as images of the artist's friends.

Bard's paintings are not specific to any time or place and notwithstanding the vague law enforcement theme there is no discernable narrative. Rather, they convey a primal anxiety, pictorially beautiful but also reeking of fear and unseen violence. I spent quite a bit of time looking at the paintings in the thrall of Bard's technique but also trying to understand why these cropped compositions left me so unnerved.

The exhibit runs until June 2, 2012.


Prisonnier I Jean
51 x 41 1/2 inches

Le trader
63 x 63 inches

Not guilty
63 x 63 inches

La montre
51 x 51 inches

Trop tard
51 x 51 inches

63 3/4 x 51 inches

Le chaos
63 x 63 inches

Prisonnier II Kader
51 x 41 1/2 inches


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