From October 7, 2021 to January 30, 2022, Hervé Télémaque: A Hopscotch of the Mind is a rare opportunity for British residents to explore the artist’s unique and vast work. Instantly recognizable thanks to its playful combination of archival and contemporary pop cultural references, Télémaque’s work avoids falling into predictability by using them to retrace subjects as diverse as colonialism and sexuality.
“The seminal work of Hervé Télémaque takes us on a unique journey through the visual languages of racism, colonialism, desire, violence, consumerism and the history of art,” said Hans Ulrich Obrist, artistic director, and Bettina Korek, general director of the Serpentine. “This spectrum of themes remains as central today as it has in every decade recounted by his singular practice. We are delighted to give London audiences the chance to see the work of this remarkable artist in person.”
A former student of the Art Students League of New York and a student of painter Julian Edwin Levi, Telemachus has developed a distinctive visual vocabulary that features abstract gestures, cartoon images, and striking combinations of literary and consumer references. An explosion of subjects ranging from Y fronts to monsters collide with a somewhat Basque-esque fusion of words and images to create a powerful art that invites the viewer to decode it.
Developing his style as the art scene was dominated by Abstract Expressionism, Telemachus became interested and inspired by artists such as Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. Although it wasn’t long before the limits of these early influences became apparent, as he observes: “this entirely New York school seemed inadequate to me to express where I came from and who I was.”
The one who became Télémaque was an honorary Parisian, having settled there definitively in 1961, where he quickly associated with the surrealists and later co-founder of the Narrative Figuration movement in France. This movement, created in collaboration with the art critic Gérald Gassiot-Talabot and the artist Bernard Rancillac, was a reaction against the abstract and Pop art which then dominated America.
“The Narrative Figuration of Télémaque often results in works with a Pop sensibility that integrate consumer objects and signs”, specifies the Serpentine. “The artist then bends these images with astute criticism, producing work in dialogue with current events, such as the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the American intervention in the Dominican Republic and contemporary French politics.”
To accompany the exhibition, Serpentine is co-publishing one of the first major English catalogs of Telemachus’ work. Edited by Joseph Constable with Koenig Books and Aspen Art Museum, where the exhibition will be presented in 2022, this catalog will include newly commissioned texts that retrace his work through a historical lens of art.
“The book will also include a selection of the artist’s writings, many of which are being translated into English for the first time, as well as a recent interview between the artist and Serpentine art director Hans Ulrich Obrist,” the Serpentine adds. .
Hervé Télémaque: A hopscotch of the spirit opens on October 7 with free entry.