comic. Brancusi against the United States or a modern art court

Can tort serve art and even define it? Arnaud Nebbach gives a beautiful answer to this question by telling a piece from the sculptor’s life Brancusi.

Weird title. Brancusi, the famous sculptor of Romanian origin, whose artistic history has no particular taste for violence, will single-handedly attack the great America? A white-bearded French naturalized artist who was considered one of the most innovative artists of his time would love to stand up to American modernism empty-handed? None of that but Brancusi vs United States is the official name of the simple legal process brought by the sculptor to the American Country.

In 1926, Brancusi’s statue crossed the Atlantic for a major exhibition in New York. Upon arrival, they are regarded not as works but as industrial objects subject to customs duties. What could be considered a simple anecdote becomes an opportunity to question the definition of a work of art and the status of its creator. Rouen designer Arnaud Nebbachin which this is the first comic, takes up the subject by alternating the trial scene with such precision as reported by Marcel Duchamp, the attentive and committed courtroom audience, and the anxious expectation of a verdict, full of doubts about his artistic practice, of the sculptor in Paris.

It is said of this extraordinary experiment that it corrected the contours and principles of modern art, especially abstract art, by breaking down the boundaries imposed from the field defined until then by realism, the uniqueness of the work, the creation by the artist’s own hands. . Brancusi was of course the artist at that time who was most able to break down these barriers. Like Marcel Duchamp, he takes everyday objects as reference and states on the Le Havre wharf while looking at and stroking the mooring bollards: ” great It was he again who, installed in the studio of architect Jean Prouvé, worked side by side with frameworks, utilitarian materials whose monumentality is reminiscent of his majestic sculptures erected towards the sky. a useful industrial object as an echo of Duchamp’s urinal, which has become, through cartridges and exhibition halls, a work of art to be fully shared By alternating in glorious silent boxes Brancusi’s bustling work in his studio with pages devoted to the trial and rigor of the statements made there, the draftsman demonstrates with simplicity, the deviations of the advocates of art knowledge – whether it is validated by official certificates of artist status and the impossibility of limiting a work of art to rationality.

As the trial progressed, the definitions became clearer: those of artist and craftsman, the uniqueness or non-uniqueness of objects and above all a definition of beauty, which is formal and limited by code and which is free from any barriers. , and a poem that admirably symbolizes ” Exhibition No.1 » I mean this bird in spacea major Brancusi work whose buyer, photographer Edward Steichen, stated that it was not a bird but a giving ” bird feelings “. Official and recognized sculptors only see it as an ingot of industrially polished metal, ” contempt for formal statues “. This theoretical debate, which can be abstruse, becomes here, thanks to highly rhythmic and varied scenarios, with total clarity and simplicity.

Birds in Space Brancusi
Bird in Space, one of Brancusi’s most famous works. (Photo: Edward Steichen)

In between court sessions, we walk the streets of Paris, we associate with Rodin, among whom Brancusi is his rebellious pupil, Calder and his famous circus, Fernand Léger with his impressive stature and banter, and we see through this meeting the questions constant from the sculptor as for his art, his requirement to make the viewer feel ” true happiness “. The picture accompanies us on this journey through artistic expression and carries us with great pleasure. The large flat area in trichrome, whose dominant color changes alternately with place, time and stylized line carries the necessary breath that ends in a magnificent page at the edge the coast of Normandy. White then takes up more space as if to leave breath in the space around the subject and let the reader fly away, according to Rodin’s principle: ” You have to look up at the sky » and for us viewers, a piece of paper. A beautiful piece of paper, a source of pure joy like a work of art.

Brancusi vs United States by Arnaud Nebbache. Dargaud Edition. 128 pages. 23€.

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