'I was so anxious to get started on these new works that, in spite of my intention of waiting for new quarters, I began a whole series of preliminary paintings to be used in these assemblages... As soon as I began the cutting up of these canvases, I felt that in this method I was going to find what I had looked for in vain from other methods, very nearly the same effects as those obtained in the butterfly-wing collages...'
(J. Dubuffet, quoted in Dubuffet, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1962 pp. 116-123).
Executed in November 1955, Casino la colle is one of the first of Dubuffet's Tableaux d'Assemblages, an important series of work dating November 1955 to December 1956, which formed a major breakthrough for the artist. This striking portrait of a man was created during a period when Dubuffet executed a number of seminal works examining western notions of portraiture in a new and radical way. Speaking to Dubuffet's insatiable interest in found patterns, texture, and materials, this work displays endless technical variations: the mottled canvas appears to have been folded, sponged, crumpled, and leaving a beautifully rendered moiré surface rippled with mauve, sage, olive, chestnut. Unifying the portrait, the artist's confident brush strokes ground the figure, articulating the pronounced features of the figure. The elementary outline of a boisterous man emerges from the abstracted landscape formed from the tactile relief of collaged canvas fragments; the beautiful marbled effect reveals palimpsests of rich plum and vibrant blues through a palette of ambers and moss. The work opens itself up before the viewer, revealing a richly layered surfaced adorned in a myriad of painting techniques.
Thick with impastoed paint, the surface of Casino la colle is crafted from fabrics imbued with organic characteristics. Dubuffet constructs a human out of the building blocks of nature; the figure's eyes, nose, mouth, and flowering boutonniere take on the textured imprints of speckled porphyry, grooved wood, and bubbly cork. A rich variety of textures stimulating the senses, the plethora of stylistic techniques speaks to this innovative period at which it was created. 1955 marked a fruitful period of experimentation for Dubuffet. Evolving from his early Art Brut works, in the Tableaux d'Assemblage, Dubuffet became inspired by collage, often incorporating found materials into the compositions. In Casino la colle this is made evident with each unique fragment organically formed through the pressing of leaves and butterfly wings into the paint, leaving intricate impressions across the surface- a distinct precursor to his later butterfly collages where the artist directly incorporated the ephemera into works.
Casino la colle dismantles the traditional tropes of Western portraiture. The prominent oval mouth formed from layers of overlapping canvas captures the animated personality of an exuberant man. Purposefully flattened in the artist's characteristic aesthetic, his profile is reduced to its most basic form, his silhouette articulated by densely layered collaged canvas and exquisite rendering of paint. His heavily worked, almost sculptural surfaces invoke a sense of the primitive, while inviting the viewer to explore the textural vagaries in order to appreciate diverse approaches to shaping the human form. Writing shortly after the completion of these works Dubuffet recalled his excitement over their potential and their importance for the future development of his art, as follows:
'I looked forward to making all sorts of experiments with different textures, spots, maculation's, etc. cutting out the parts that pleased me, and assembling them as I chose... I was so anxious to get started on these new works that, in spite of my intention of waiting for new quarters, I began a whole series of preliminary paintings to be used in these assemblages... As soon as I began the cutting up of these canvases, I felt that in this method I was going to find what I had looked for in vain from other methods, very nearly the same effects as those obtained in the butterfly-wing collages. Very similar too were the series of colours in these new paintings, in which colour was diffused in the same way over the whole picture, so that the exact colour was forgotten, eluded analysis, producing a bright pearly shimmering, but by means of what colours it was impossible to say. I had already noticed while making the tiny assemblages of wings, in which so many different colours produced an overall effect of a diaphanous irridescent haze, impossible to analyse and richly luminous, that here I had found a system of using colour diametrically opposed to the decorative use of large areas of strongly contrasting brilliant colours, adopted by painters for the last sixty years... By this totally different use of colour, taking from it all decorative property and aiming only at obtaining an effect that would be striking simply because of the feeling it gives of intense life, I was opening up, it seems to me, a vast new field of research. It was in this direction... that the Tableaux d'Assemblages were orientated from the beginning, and have continued to be ever since... In addition, this new assemblage method, from the very beginning, seemed to lend itself perfectly to the treatment of those subjects which had preoccupied me for months past, being the grasses and tiny plants growing along the roadside... the gardens and soil rich in humus covered with twigs and decayed leaves with their very complex textures, and finally stony mountain soil overgrown with a small modest vegetation - wild thyme, moss and lichens - carpets of coarse turf... Now my Tableaux d'Assemblages had these same themes as their subjects... I feel quite sure at the moment of writing these lines that after a whole year given up to these exercises, whatever paintings I may choose to paint from now on will be strongly marked by this technique even if they never make use of it. In any case I shall undoubtedly return to it periodically as a source of stimulation and renewal' (J. Dubuffet, quoted in Dubuffet, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1962, pp. 116-123).