Quelques dessins californiens / Some Californian drawings
September 6- November 3, 2013
Some Walls is pleased to present Christopher Baudson: Quelques dessins californiens / Some Californian drawings, September 6- November 3, 2013. Baudson is a French artist who lives and works in both Ireland and France.
After Christophe Baudson’s art had hung on the walls for awhile and I had spent a good amount time with it, one day I glanced at the pieces all at once and suddenly heard Plastic Bertand’s huge French-language hit via Belgium, Ça plane pour moi, a song that burst out of nowhere and onto the Punk radio landscape in 1977. It’s not that Baudson’s work looks like the sound of Plastic’s song, although I think that’s there, too, the more I think about its unexpected, offbeat, surface-and-process-oriented French concept of painting as tableau. Writing about the 2010 exhibition Le Tableau at Cheim and Read, New York curated by Joe Fyfe, Robert C. Morgan says, tableau is “less the concept of ‘the flatbed picture plane’ and more the ‘material means and/or structure of painting as a form or figure’ as, for example, found in post-war French painting from the 1940s and ‘50s.” Baudson shares the song’s attitude and form: fun yet serious, full-on and open-handed, colloquial and abstract, primary and even primitive, working with process, structure, and surface analogous to popular song, frisky and colorful with a sense of prankish clutter and shallow space, things falling into place, bits and pieces making the whole package.
Eight works on paper and two small canvases are presented. This is a unique opportunity to see Baudson’s work in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Some Walls is a curatorial and writing art project founded in 2009 in a private home in Oakland, California. Some Walls is open by appointment only. View the exhibition online at somewalls.com. To schedule a visit, or for more information, please contact Chris Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previous exhibitions at Some Walls:
- David Rhodes: "Nocturnes." 2013
- Eva Lake: "Photomontages," 2012
- Daniel Levine: "Marker," 2012
- Lisa Rock & Sam Carr-Prindle: "Splitting Image," 2012
- Sherman Sam: "Over the Rainbow: some paintings and some drawings for Some Walls,” 2012
- Mira Schor: "Painting in The Space Where Painting Used to Be," 2011
- Ken Weathersby: "Time is the Diamond," 2011
- Eve Aschheim: "Drawings and Photograms," 2011
- Paul Pagk: “Drawings from the Series: The Mesquite Drawings,” 2011
- Joseph Hughes: "Works on Paper – Four Decades – 1970s – 2000s," 2010-11
- Patrick Michael Fitzgerald: “New Paintings & Drawings,” 2010
- Bruno Fazzolari: "New Work," 2010
- Douglas Witmer: "Fruitville," 2010
- Lorna Mills: "Zen Dog," 2010
- Frederick Bell: “Return Trip: Bologna Antwerp Oakland Brussels," 2010
- A. Bill Miller: “Samples from the Gridworks Collection Project Archives," 2009
- Jeffrey Cortland Jones: “Recent Paintings,” 2009
Christophe Baudson: Quelques dessins californiens / Some Californian drawings
After Christophe Baudson’s art had hung on the walls for awhile and I had spent a good amount time with it, one day I glanced at the pieces all at once and heard Plastic Bertand’s huge French-language hit via Belgium, Ça plane pour moi, a song that burst out of nowhere and onto the Punk radio landscape in 1977. This association didn’t occur simply because Baudson is French. More likely, the sound of the song was prompted by his art’s humor, playfulness, matter-of-factness and dead pan, and a spirit analogous to the song’s three chords, wall of sound, honking saxophone, and allusive meaning. The vocals, actually handled by the record’s producer Lou Deprijck, are crooned and spoken in French monotone with a little English mixed in, and the title, which is also the chorus, means literally, "It’s fine by me," "I’m on a roll," or "Everything goes well for me." But planer means to soar or glide, and is a colloquial for taking drugs and getting high, so instead might more accurately mean, "It gets me high," or even more accurately, "I feel high, because everything’s fine for me" (there is a page online where this is thoroughly discussed).
It’s not that Baudson’s work looks like the sound of Plastic’s song, although I think that’s there, too, the more I think about its unexpected, offbeat, surface-and-process-oriented French concept of painting as tableau. Writing about the 2010 exhibition Le Tableau at Cheim and Read, New York curated by Joe Fyfe, Robert C. Morgan says, tableau is “less the concept of ‘the flatbed picture plane’ and more the ‘material means and/or structure of painting as a form or figure’ as, for example, found in post-war French painting from the 1940s and ‘50s.” Baudson shares the song’s attitude and form: fun yet serious, full-on and open-handed, colloquial and abstract, primary and even primitive, working with process, structure, and surface analogous to popular song, frisky and colorful with a sense of prankish clutter and shallow space, things falling into place, bits and pieces making the whole package.
Note: One goal here is to somehow match that attitude in writing.
And there is, of course, being a rock ‘n roll song, the sex and drugs content of the lyrics—drinking and hanging out, boy and girl stuff—which, while not depicted in Baudson’s work, has a presence in its conveyance of pace, pleasure, surprise, rupture, clumping and scattering, and a feeling of not too much, just enough, relaxation, lack of concern, and finish but not fetish.
Note: Elton Motello’s Jet Boy, Jet Girl is in English with entirely different lyrics and sung over the same music track used for Ça plane pour moi. Radio play on WIOD, Miami in 1989 resulted in a $10,000 fine by the Federal Communications Commission. A video with the band not even pretending to lip synch features a cameo of a dancing Plastic Bertrand.
Baudson is from the Meurthe-et-Moselle department in north-eastern France near Luxembourg, and now lives in Dublin, Ireland most of the year, though still spends a good amount of summer back in the old neighborhood. He has sent eight works on paper and two small canvases for this exhibition, Quelques dessins californiens / Some Californian drawings. I asked Google Maps for directions from Christophe’s house in Dublin, Ireland to mine in Oakland, California but was answered, “We could not calculate directions between (his address) and (my address).” I tried three routes: driving, walking, and biking, but no luck.
What good is an app that can only answer reasonable questions?
Why can’t I have a forward thinking app that provides answers to what if questions?
Note: Because that’s art’s job.
Determining a walking route from Ireland to California is kind of like writing about art. How can I get from here to there when the terrain is rough in places, broken up or discontinuous, or when water is pretty much unwalkable? You have to solve these problems as you encounter them. Will you boat or fly, instead? To a committed pedestrian that might be cheating, but perhaps swimming wouldn’t be? Maybe Google Maps needs a “How far is my walking journey if I can also swim” option. Looking closely at art, identifying what you’re seeing and feeling intellectually and emotionally, and finding the words to describe can be like walking on water: impossible, but if you manage to get close, wow, what a buoyant feeling.
Moving on: We live in such weird, at your fingertips, right-now times.
I can converse nearly instantly via text with people just about literally everywhere, sending words and pictures. As long as we’re both awake at that moment, we can exchange greetings, information, pleasantries, and ideas in real time. Time zones are not a barrier, it’s like there’s no distance and everyone is at hand.
Because the phone I carry is a little computer in my pocket: (1) I can set off into the world not knowing where I’m going or what I’ll see because I can look it up as I go along; (2) I no longer need, and am increasingly less able, to remember much because I can always find the information again speedily; and (3) I am constantly aware of how ignorant I am, and what a narrowly focused little channel of genuine knowledge I possess or grasp. For example: Having just seen the British Museum’s Cyrus Cylinder, I need a huge refresher on Cyrus the Great.
At this precise moment I have exactly 1,234 Facebook friends, a magic number of which I was unaware until I looked moments ago (I won’t make or accept any requests until this piece of writing is published). Probably 1,100 of those friends are artists, of whom perhaps 100 are people I’ve actually met face-to-face, and there’s a good chance that I’m only paying close attention to 50 or so of these. The other 150 people or whatever are regular non-art friends, family, and work colleagues. What a sea of humanity; I’m more connected, but also more disconnected from the very people with whom I was never really connected with anyway.
I spend so much time in front of a monitor that I sometimes worry about my ability to… oh look, here’s an article titled, “How to Rebuild an Attention Span.”
An exchange in Dutch on Facebook (thank you online translation):Person A posts: Kunst is een doodserieuze grap.(Art is a dead serious joke.)
Person B comments: Er mag al een gelachen worden. (There may have been a laugh.)
Person C comments: Hahaha (Hahaha)
Person D comments: Serieus. (Seriously?)
Person E comments: Zo is dat. 😀 (That’s right :D)
Baudson’s work is dead serious, despite its initially playful, jokey, and light appearance. Somehow it seemed appropriate to post the five-person interaction in Dutch read by an English speaking person to say something about Baudson; perhaps what happens from this point on makes that clear.
The ten pieces, all 2012, are quirky. They can be described but they’re hard to pin down. I can talk about them, but they’re puzzling and it’s not easy. They are raw yet restrained, with little color spectrum moments, bits of signage, schema and gestures, drawn hints of things disguised or barely realized, fresh and timeless.
Note: A main point in all of this rambling is that the intersection of many streams of attention and information required to look at and think about art is complicated, needs filtering though is often serendipitous, requires being attuned to possibility, and can help explain things in unexpected ways. These paths include: the artist’s choices and actions; the massive swirl of data about daily, hourly, and by the minute and second, the distances it travels, and the way it layers itself around us; the acute use of senses to engage with art; the relationships we develop with each other; our personal history and the institutional history we learn; our particular disposition at the moment; the time we have or give to the endeavor (yes, it is an effort). This piece of writing is itself an attempt to wade through many thoughts and associations in an effort to say something clear and meaningful about one artist’s work.
The two small canvases, both titled Spaghetti, are packed accumulations of colored pasta-like lines, side-by-side vertical strands of paint extruded through syringes, each about one sixteenth of an inch in diameter. The result: as if a section of mutant, coagulating rainbow was sliced and glued to canvas; as if Gene Davis used dye-soaked noodles collaged into stripe paintings; as if Huichol artists stopped using yarn and turned to angel hair pasta; as if a summer camp-crafted God’s eye was combed out; as if a color monitor gone bad was turned on its side; as if a packaged, rectangular entrée turned out jelly bean-flavored.
The paper works begin with a quickly brushed-in field of color on top of which a few strokes establish object or figure-like locations. On top of this, strings and tangles of more extruded, squiggly, colored lines are drawn, or laid, or dropped, or arranged. It’s hard to say that these strings of paint are painted, actually; they are like drawn lines, but they have body, so they’re lines with circumference. Let’s call them paint lines.
In one work a few light orange strokes suggest a cave painting of an animal’s body, or antlers, or a vague landscape, on top of which a contained mass of dark and light gray squiggly paint lines build to about three eighths of an inch off the paper. The brushed image feels outlined or carved, and smudged or out of focus, and contrasts with the paint lines of uniform size and thickness which are sharp, defined, with many not even resting on the paper’s surface, creating a shifting space of distance and advanced foreground, something old and something new, something handmade and something machine made. It’s serious, but it’s funny.
In another, a field of multicolored, rubber band-like circles of squeezed paint lines is abruptly chopped at top and left, a random scattering made more precise and composed by the remaining empty framing margins. What might otherwise be taken for a depiction of a tabletop of assorted, randomly placed rubber bands is cut and sectioned, a consciousness-raising snapping to attention. This is a reminder that this is just paint, but before that this is an idea, and before that there is nothing, and in the end a simple work of art is thinking made visible.
And in a third, a dark blue-green rounded shape, a bulbous hand or bloated leaf, located in the center and isolated like a lonely Guston shape, is supported where its bottom edge touches a horizontal band of squeezed out paint lines, a section of rainbow to lighten the mood, though the sad clown sentiment hilariously remains.
Last summer, preparing to meet in Strasbourg, Christophe and I messaged back and forth to arrange the time and place on a Saturday night in late July. He arrived as we sat at an outside table at Au Petit Bois Vert on the L’Ill right across from the Quai de la Petite France, our tarte flambées happily and completely consumed.
I am dropping place names because with Google Maps I can practically retrace our steps through the streets of Strasbourg, making me appear to have a fantastic memory, which I don’t, so I’m really only proving my willingness to elaborate through typing, copying, and pasting. Incidentally, we had just the night before had a wonderful dinner with the gregarious and gracious Pascal Blanchard, art friend extraordinaire to many in the world, at the perfect outside table at Maison Kammerzell just across the Place du la Cathédrale. I digress, but only a little.
With Christophe seated we promptly ordered another ceramic pitcher of cool Sylvaner (I sound like a hack travel writer) and talked and laughed for a long time about art and life, learning about his move to Dublin, his two young daughters, and the summer house an hour and a half or so north of Strasbourg, until we ambled through the city, past the Cathédrale, and along Rue des Frères to the crowded Place du Marché Gayot for a late night coffee.
It was there we agreed that his art would travel several thousand miles to California and hang on a wall here, and it is my pleasure to repay his generosity and cooperation with a few words.
The artist makes something in order to realize and see something he or she hasn’t seen before. And if the artist works hard the result is also something that viewer hasn’t seen before and is willing to spend time with. To my eyes, Baudson has achieved this.
 APLAUSO, 1978. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FWMZig6Yq0. September 6, 2013.
 Plastic Bertrand. http://plasticbertrand.blogspot.com/2007/03/ca-plane-pour-moi.html. September 6, 2013.
 Morgan, Robert C. When Hypothesis Trumps Quality: Le Tableau at Cheim & Read. Artcritical.com. http://www.artcritical.com/2010/07/23/le-tableau-review/. September 6, 2013.
 Jet Boy, Jet Girl. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jet_Boy,_Jet_Girl. September 6, 2013.
 Elton Motello – Jet Boy Jet Girl (Ca Plane Pour Moi UK Version) + Caméo de Plastic Bertrand. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L75uAXzTjHM. September 6, 2013.
 Cyrus the Great. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrus_the_Great. September 6, 2013.
 Foster, Douglas. How to Rebuild an Attention Span. The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/09/how-to-rebuild-an-attention-span/279326/. September 6, 2013.
 Gene Davis (painter). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Davis_(painter). September 6, 2013.
 Huichol art. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huichol_art. September 6, 2013.
 Guston, Philip. Head and Bottle. 1975. http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/philip-guston/head-and-bottle. September 6, 2013.
 Kammerzell House. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kammerzell_House. September 6, 2013.
Christophe Baudson (web site)
- Born in Longwy, France
- Lives and works in Ireland and France
Recent selected exhibitions: "Slurp/Spaghetti," (with Mr Learn), Forbach, France; "P.A.F.S / Slurp," Galerie Octave Cowbell, Metz,France; "Welcome To Our Neighbourhood," (with J.Gubbiotti, E.Pressager, T.Gillen, S.Decker, R.Wagner, O.Nottelet…), Sarrebrück.