The exhibition “Hervé Télémaque: A Hopscotch of the Mind” opened at the Aspen Art Museum this weekend and will continue until March 26.
The exhibition marks the first time that Hervé Télémaque, a French artist of Haitian origin, has had an institutional solo exhibition in the United States.
Spanning three gallery spaces and two floors at the AAM, “A Hopscotch of the Mind” brings together works made from the early 1960s to the present day, with the most recent piece completed in 2019.
Rather than taking a chronological approach, the exhibition offers a non-linear exploration of Télémaque’s visual vocabulary – a conscious choice, said curator Joseph Constable, to reflect the pace and message of the artist himself.
“The way Telemachus works isn’t very linear, so it made more sense to meet the different works, different periods and different styles and notice how they overlap, how they intersect,” Constable said. “It’s really about creating that kind of idiosyncratic rhythm, and we wanted to reflect that in the visitor experience in the museum.”
Constable – who is currently responsible for exhibitions at De La Warr Pavilion, a center for contemporary art on the south coast of England – was part of the original curatorial team for ‘A Hopscotch of the Mind’ when the first presentation of the year show at the Serpentine Gallery in London. Constable co-curated the exhibition alongside Serpentine’s artistic director, Hans Ulrich Obrist.
For the AAM’s iteration, Obrist and Constable were joined by London-based artist Helen Marten, who reimagined the show’s staging in response to the AAM’s gallery spaces.
Constable explained that the museum’s galleries are significantly larger than Serpentine, which allows curators to include more works by Telemachus in the AAM exhibition – some of which have never been exhibited or shown in a public context until now, he said. Working in the additional gallery space at the AAM also allowed for a very different composition of the exhibit, Constable said, citing Marten’s reconfiguration.
“Helen Marten has made such a site-specific response to the galleries, and it’s quite special to see the works framed in this way,” Constable said. “She designed these walls to create certain windows or openings, so when you walk through, what you see are these overlapping perspectives on the works – these different layers.”
Constable went on to explain how Marten’s architectural components – including the house, shed, tent and window-like framing devices – are structured around “charged patterns” related to life and work. of Telemachus.
Born in 1937 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Télémaque left his native country for New York at the age of 20 and entered an art scene dominated by abstract expressionism. Shortly after his adventure in the United States – during which he experienced discrimination and racism – the artist settled in Paris in 1961, where he still lives and works at 85 today. .
Télémaque’s early years in Paris marked a prolific and productive time in the artist’s career, Constable said, noting that the current AAM exhibition is curated with a strong emphasis on this 1960s period.
At this time, Télémaque associated with the surrealists and participated in the co-founding, with other artists in France, of the Narrative Figuration movement – an artistic movement both informed and in reaction against the trend of abstract art and the development of pop art aesthetics. what’s happening in the united states
It was the formation of a visual language that was distinct and commented on the socio-political contexts of the time, Constable said. Over the years, Télémaque has produced works in dialogue with current events, such as the Cold War, Cuban Missile Crisis, American Intervention in the Dominican Republic and Contemporary French Politics.
The artist’s Narrative Figuration often translates into paintings, drawings and collages with a pop sensibility, incorporating two- and three-dimensional objects and signs around consumerism, as well as the subtle ways in which racism permeates the everyday life.
Throughout Telemachus’ career, the artist has always had a very passionate commitment to bringing to light the stories of racism, colonialism and imperialism, Constable said. The curator then highlighted how, looking at the current climate, where there is much more of an increased awareness around these conversations, speaks to the contemporary resonance of Télémaque’s pieces.
“A lot of times he looked at how racist tropes are embedded in things that we don’t even notice,” Constable said. “And just seeing the exhibit and the way it manifests here really highlights the contemporary nature of these messages that he’s been formulating for decades, in fact.”
Even though the critical messages in Telemachus’ work can be serious most of the time, Constable explained how there is also a real sense of play in his art – from form and geometry to color and reference – and the commissioners wanted to present this piece. , hence the title of the exhibition.
“What we’ve tried to do is give the visitor the freedom to move through the space – there’s not just one trip they’re supposed to take through the galleries, it’s really the way he charts his own path,” said the constable. “And I think that kind of freedom is built into ‘A Hopscotch of the Mind’.”