Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more Property from a Private American Collection
Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985)

Memoria (Deux Personnages)

Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985)
Memoria (Deux Personnages)
signed and dated 'J. Dubuffet 63' (lower right)
gouache on paper laid on canvas
39 ½ x 26 ¾in. (100.3 x 68cm.)
Executed in 1963
Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris.
Albert and Suzanne Landry, New York.
The Estate of Suzanne Landry, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
M. Loreau (ed.), Catalogue des travaux de Jean Dubuffet, Fascicule XX: L’Hourloupe I, Lausanne 1966, no. 179 (illustrated, p. 96).
Paris, Galerie Claude Bernard, Jean Dubuffet. L'hourloupe gouaches, 1964, no. 37 (illustrated, unpaged).
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Lot Essay

‘For Dubuffet [l’Hourloupe] is a “festival of the mind”, luminous, brilliant, sparkling, and continual. In it Dubuffet seeks an uninterrupted and uniform writing that brings everything to the frontal plane. It represents the wanderings of the thought processes, a mental and neuronal vision of the world, a vision of the real world that never stops questioning’
–Valérie da Costa and Fabrice Hergott

‘[in L’Hourloupe] this consistently uniform script indifferently applied to all will thereby dissolve the categories which our mind habitually employs to decipher (better to say cipher) the facts and spectacles of the world. Herewith the circulation of the mind from one object to another, from one category to another will be liberated and its mobility greatly increased’
–Jean Dubuffet

With its shimmering surface of amorphous forms seeming to compete for attention while also collectively combining to create a persuasive but uncertain image of reality, the appropriately entitled Memoria, painted in September 1963, is a classic early example of Jean Dubuffet’s Hourloupe cycle.
This famous cycle of works, which was to prove the longest in Dubuffet’s career (lasting twelve years), evolved out of the loosely-vibrant collective chaos of the artist’s vaguely cartoon-like images of the Paris street in his celebrated Paris Circus pictures of the early 1960s. Taking the surface ambiguity of these busily graphic works a step further, their shimmering forms magically materialized, in the summer of 1962, into a puzzling, and wholly new, semi-abstract rendering of reality. It had been in July of 1962 that Dubuffet, in the course of making telephone calls, had taken to doodling with red ballpoint pen and, through this practice, suddenly awoke to a powerful revelation about the series of cell-like structures that had emerged from his unconscious, semi-automatic scribbling. In a series of vaguely amorphous and collectively interactive biro-rendered forms Dubuffet recognized not only a style of representation that pointed the way to a new painterly language, but also one that appeared to open up a series of philosophical questions about the nature of perception and objective reality.
Dedicating himself (for the first time in his career) solely to this single, new direction opened up for him by the creation of these intermingling cell-like structures of representation, Dubuffet intuitively began to play with the ambiguity of imagery offered up by this new technique. Dubuffet conceived these new works, he later wrote, ‘as the figuration of a world other than our own or, if you prefer, parallel to ours … The works originating in this cycle are in the form of sinuous graphisms responding with immediacy to spontaneous and, so to speak, uncontrolled impulses of the hand which traces them. Within these graphisms, imprecise, fugitive and ambiguous figures take shape. Their movement sets off in the observer’s mind a hyperactivation of the visionary faculty. In these interlacings all kinds of objects form and dissolve as the eyes scan the surface, linking intimately the transitory and the permanent, the real and the fallacious. The result…is an awareness of the illusory character of the world which we think of as real, and to which we give the name of the real world. These graphisms, with their constantly shifting references, have the virtue … of challenging the legitimacy of what we habitually accept as reality.’ (J. Dubuffet, quoted in Jean Dubuffet, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1973, p. 35).
In Memoria this borderline world between reality, sensation and graphic intuition is articulated through a series of shimmering amorphous shape that collectively appear to approach a recognisable form. Combining together to form an ambiguous, shifting and uncertain water-like sense of surface, these interlocking cells suggest, but do not completely render, the image of a figure either coming into being or disappearing from view. Like a vague or hazy remembrance, the sense of imagery in this work is suggestive but indistinct, hovering on the edge of decipherability and all the more fascinating for being so.
‘Has the taste for the festive, for the arbitrary and fantastic vanished?’, Dubuffet asked at the first exhibition of his Hourloupe pictures. ‘Do we wish nowadays only to learn? Can not a man in all legitimacy choose, once at least — and why not, perhaps, once for all? — not truth (a shifting thing anyway), but change and delusion? Can he not play out his role of drunken dancer? Can he not like a Chinese juggler, on the day of great rejoicing, draw from his head the shimmering scarves of incongruity and deck out his home amidst the joyous tinkling bells of the merry Fair of Equivalences and Inconsistancies’ (J. Dubuffet, Jean Dubuffet L’Hourloupe, exh. cat. Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Paris, 1964, n.p.).

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