Not on display

Original title
Les Jazzmen
Printed papers on canvas
Image: 2170 × 1770 mm
support: 2170 × 1770 mm
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 2000


The Jazzmen is a section of what Jacques Villeglé termed affiches lacérées, posters torn down from the walls of Paris. These particular ones were taken on 10 December 1961. Following his established practice, Villeglé removed the section from a billboard and, having mounted it on canvas, presented it as a work of art. In 'Des Réalités collectives' of 1958 ('Collective Realities', reprinted in 1960: Les Nouveaux Réalistes, pp.259-60) he acknowledged that he occasionally tore the surface of the posters himself, although he subsequently restricted interventions to repairs during the mounting process. The large blue and green advertisements for Radinola (at the top right and lower left) provide the main visible surface for The Jazzmen. These establish a compositional unity for the accumulated layers. Overlaid are fragmentary music posters and fly-posters, some dated to September 1961, including the images of the red guitarists that lend the work its title. The artist's records give the source as rue de Tolbiac, a thoroughfare in the 13th arrondissement in south-east Paris. Villeglé usually uses the street as his title, but has suggested (interview with the author, February 2000) that the title The Jazzmen may have been invented for the work's inclusion in the exhibition L'Art du jazz (Musée Galliera, Paris 1967).

Villeglé worked together with Raymond Hains (b. 1926) in presenting torn posters as works of art. They collaborated on such works as Ach Alma Manetro, 1949 (Musée nationale d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris), in which typography dominates the composition. They first showed their affiches lacérées in May 1957 at the Galerie Colette Allendy, Paris, in a joint exhibition named Loi du 29 juillet 1881 ou le lyrisme à la sauvette (The Law of 29 July 1881 or Lyricism through Salvage) in reference to the law forbidding fly-posting. Villeglé sees a social complexity in the developments in the style, typography and subject of the source posters. He also considers the processes of the overlaying and the pealing of the posters by passers-by to be a manifestation of a liberated art of the street. Both aspects are implicitly political. As Villeglé points out, anonymity differentiates the torn posters from the collages of the Cubists or of the German artist Kurt Schwitters. In 'Des Réalités collectives' Villeglé wrote: 'To collages, which originate in the interplay of many possible attitudes, the affiches lacérées, as a spontaneous manifestation, oppose … their immediate vivacity'. He saw the results as extending the conceptual basis of Marcel Duchamp's readymades, whereby an object selected by an artist is declared as art. However, this reduction of the artist's traditional role brought an end to Villeglé's collaboration with Hains, who held more orthodox views of creative invention.

In 1960 Villeglé, Hains and François Dufrêne (1930-82), who also used torn posters, joined the Nouveaux Réalistes group gathered by the critic Pierre Restany (b.1930). Distinguished by the use of very disparate materials and techniques, the Nouveaux Réalistes - who also included Arman (b.1928), Yves Klein (1928-62) and Jean Tinguely (1925-91) - were united by what Villeglé has called their 'distance from the act of painting' as characterised by the dominant abstraction of the period (interview February 2000). In this way, Klein's monochrome paintings (see Tate T01513) and Villeglé's affiches lacérées conform to the group's joint declaration of 27 October 1960: 'The Nouveaux Réalistes have become aware of their collective singularity. Nouveau Réalisme = new perceptual approaches to reality.' The Jazzmen, of the following year, embodies Villeglé's understanding of his 'singularity' as a conduit for anonymous public expression.

Further reading:
1960: Les Nouveaux Réalistes, exhibition catalogue, Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris 1986, pp.253-4, 259-60
Jacques Villeglé, Urbi & Orbi, Mâcon 1986
Alfred Pacquement, 'The Nouveaux Réalistes: The Renewal of Art in Paris around 1960', in Pop Art, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London 1991, pp.214-18

Matthew Gale
June 2000

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Display caption

Jazzmen is made from a section of posters and advertisements stripped from the rue de Tolbiac in Paris. Villeglé started making works using torn posters in the late 1940s and again in the 1960s. He wanted to emphasise the actions of anonymous passers-by who had torn and stripped the posters, a process that he regarded as a spontaneous art of the street. The title of this work derives from the partially seen guitarists on the left-hand side.

Gallery label, March 2010

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Catalogue entry

Jacques Mahé de la Villeglé born 1926

Jazzmen – rue de Tolbiac 1961
Les Jazzmen – rue de Tolbiac


Paper collage on canvas

2170 x 1770 mm (85 2/5 x 69 ½ in)

Inscribed on back in red marker pen: ‘les jazzmen | 10 décembre 61 | 217 x 177’ top right; circular customs stamp ‘DOUANE | EXPORTATION | CENTRALE’ centre

Purchased 2000

Purchased from the artist through the Galerie Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Vallois, Paris 2000

Décollages: Dufrêne, Rotella, Villeglé, Galerie Ad Libum, Antwerp, April-May 1966 (catalogue not found)
L’Age du Jazz, Musée Galliera, Paris, April - May 1967 (125)
Villeglé, Galerie des Sept Collines, Vienne, June - July 1998 (no catalogue numbers)

Sandrine Mariette, Valerie Villeglé and others, Jacques Villeglé: Catalogue raisonné, CD-rom, Paris 2003

Jacques Villeglé’s work is based on the seizure of a fragment of reality, for which he claims Kurt Schwitters and Marcel Duchamp as precedents, and he considers himself more an accumulator of a collective product than the work’s author.[1] Jazzmen, like most of Villeglé’s oeuvre, is a section of what he termed affiches lacérées, or torn posters, disfigured on the walls of Paris by unnamed passers-by but taken by him into the context of ‘high’ art. As opposed to Duchamp’s readymades, Villeglé asserts that posters, ‘lacérées par des inconnus, devient production non manufacturée, anti-objet’ (torn by unknown hands, become a non-manufactured product, an anti-object).[2] He has stated that his practice was simply to choose the segment of a poster, cut and tear it from its position.[3] He summarised this by claiming: ‘The whole world makes work for me – I only have to collect it.’[4] In this he collaborated with Raymond Hains from 1949, and was close to François Dufrêne and the Italian Mimmo Rotella, who also used torn posters from the mid 1950s onwards.

Villeglé’s records show that Jazzmen was taken from the rue de Tolbiac, a thoroughfare in the 13th arrondissement in south-east Paris, on 10 December 1961; this date is also inscribed on the reverse of the canvas to which it is fixed.[5] An underlying advertisement for ‘Radinola’, identifiable from ‘Rad[inola] | dit’, is visible at the top right. When taken with the stronger blues and greens at the base, the soft blue and pink of this area helps to secure a compositional stability for the accumulated layers. Overlaid are the typographic elements of music posters and fly-posters. In between is a densely packed area of pealed edges in which the gesture of tearing long horizontal strips takes on considerable finesse. The fact that this tearing is apparently largely the action of passers-by, before Villeglé removed the section of poster from the wall, is crucial to the artist’s interest in a public and anonymous ‘aesthetics of the street’.[6] Nevertheless, it is telling that the critic Pierre Restany, who was close to all four of the affichistes working with torn posters, identified individual characteristics within their work. Restany’s comments about Villeglé are applicable to Jazzmen, as he noted a preference for ‘large blots of colour, violent and colliding contrasts of tones’ and the occasional taste for ‘delicate chromatics’.[7] In this way, it is possible to see the torn poster less as the antithesis of contemporary gestural abstraction and more its, somewhat distorted, reflection.

Because of its composition from a variety of layered posters, Jazzmen can literally be read. Single letters and detached trios (‘CHY’ of Vichy mineral water, white on blue, top right) float among the accumulated fragments. In the bottom centre is a section on which is legible: ‘[...]et[...] | RIC[...] | [...]eputé de 4e ann[...] | [...]AND[...]’. At the top left are pieces which read: ‘NOUS’ (upside down, red on white); ‘Barcl[...]’ (black on turquoise); and a pair of fragments that taken together read: ‘[...]B[...] | [...]BLIUS[...]RA[...] | sur | [...]CHER’. Other words can be reconstructed to give more coherent snatches of meaning. Large pieces of two posters, in red and black type, occupy the upper centre. They appear to have been identical, with the abutting parts surviving (the right edge of the left-hand poster, and the left edge of the, more extensive, right-hand poster). That on the left reads: ‘CAP[...] | [...]CING Télépho[ne] | Trains direct Gare du Nord | [SEPTE]MBRE 1961 A | [D]ANSAN[T] | avec | [PR]UD’HOM[ME].’ That to its right reads: ‘SAMEDI 23 | NUIT | EMILE P[RUD’HOMME] SON | [SE]PTEMBRE 1961 en matinée [a] 15h.| et en soir[ée a] 21h.| [?]L AZZOLA | [F]ORMATION | [di]manches, en matinée et soirée | [?]TTI et son diabl[es] | chanteuses ARGIRA e[t] | [?]S VARIÉES’. Taken together these posters advertise a dance and can be reconstructed as:

[...]CING Téléph[one]
Trains direct Gare du Nord




[SE]PTEMBRE 1961 en matinée [a] 15h.

et en soir[ée a] 21h.

[di]manches, en matinée et soirée
[...]TTI et son diabl[es]
chanteuses ARGIRA e[t]

Contemporary music is a theme that unites this advertisement, for a Saturday night’s entertainment in the northern suburbs of Paris, with the image of a red-jacketed guitarist framed by the legs of a similar figure above. Villeglé has indicated that, although he habitually names his affiches lacérées after their site of origin, these guitarists suggested the title, Les Jazzmen, when the work was included in the 1967 exhibition L’Age du Jazz.[8] Music may set the tone for other fragments: the carefully retained ‘[...]s jeunes g[...]’ (young) below the guitarists, perhaps the ‘Holly’ (of the guitarist Buddy Holly, or simply of Hollywood?) made up of ‘HOL[L]’ and ‘Y’ from two similar fragments towards the middle right. Such a uniting theme may reflect the commercial targeting of an audience at a specific site. It was already a standard practice for Villeglé to use posters from sites for which the texts – however scrambled - provided a common element, notably the cinema bills of the five-part Tapis Maillot, 1959 (Musée national d’art moderne, Centre George Pompidou, Paris).[9] Jazzmen may be seen in this light. More broadly, the overlaying of music posters in Jazzmen reflects the proliferation of a popular culture indebted to America in content and style.

It is clear that the typography lends a layer of meaning of which Villeglé made use. Indeed, the inclusion of a copyright warning (‘reproduction forbidden’) in the centre of Jazzmen is both witty and provocative. Running vertically upwards, it reads: ‘Sté. Exploit-on | Ets. DE LAVASSELAIS | PARIS | 4, Rue Cimarosa | Imp-rs Edit-rs | Reproduction INTERDITE’. This is a standard poster publisher’s rubric, but in the context of the removal and reuse of the advertisement, it seems to stand for an authority under attack. A more obvious dialogue between such texts on the posters and the artist’s appropriation of them is found in the use of the phrase ‘crime doesn’t pay’ on a circular work, taken from the same street a year later: Rue de Tolbiac – Le Crime ne paie pas, 1962 (private collection).[10] Many of Villeglé’s affiches lacérées are based exclusively on the effects of typography. An outstanding early example is Ach Alma Manetro, 1949 (Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris),[11] a work made in collaboration with Raymond Hains. This relies upon the play between partial and overlaid letters of different scales in black or red on (now yellowed) white paper. Indeed, when Villeglé came to catalogue his output he used this work as the first of a category that he called ‘La Lettre Lacérée’ (The Torn Letter), due to the predominance of typography.

If the nature of the advertisements was, to some extent, predetermined by the site, then the final appearance of Villeglé’s work is equally determined by the physical attack on those posters. He is especially attracted to the idea that the posters are torn by anonymous passers-by, and that the composition that he retrieves is a mass collaboration which he co-ordinates as the ‘head of an imaginary studio’.[12] In the 1980s, recalling his colleagues of thirty years before, he explained:

La dénomination générique ‘Lacéré Anonyme’ restitue à la masse des lacérateurs clandestins le génie que le jeu du commerce de l’art a tendance à attribuer aux seuls artistes ravisseurs, voyeurs et collectioneurs, Dufrêne, Hains, Rotella, Villeglé.[13] (The generic name ‘Lacéré Anonyme’ (anonymous tearing) restores genius to the mass of secret lacerators that the game of the art market has the tendency to attribute solely to the stripper-artists, voyeurs and collectors, Dufrêne, Hains, Rotella, Villeglé.)

He had devised the term ‘Lacéré Anonyme’ (Anonymous Tearing) for his solo exhibition of 1959,[14] and had already placed an emphasis on anonymity in drawing a distinction between his work and Cubist collage. In his 1958 text ‘Des Réalités collectives’ (Collective Realities) he wrote:

La lacération vient au bout et à bout de la peinture-transposition. Aux collages qui prirent naissance à la force du jeu de plusieurs attitudes possibles, les affiches lacérées, manifestation spontanée, opposent – les intermédiaires s’étant vidés d’eux-mêmes – leur vivacité immédiate qu’elles nous révèlent depuis dix ans. Accusant le coup, nous sommes partis à la cueillette de ces objets ‘autre’. Les préservant de tout apport impur.[15] (Laceration comes at the end and gets the better of painting as copying. To collages, which originate in the interplay of many possible approaches, the affiches lacérées oppose their immediate vivacity as a spontaneous manifestation – the intermediaries being emptied of themselves - which they have revealed to us over ten years. Reeling from the blow, we have set out to collect these ‘other’ objects. Keeping them from any impure assistance.)

The emphasis on orchestrating the results of anonymous production, rather than allowing oneself to act directly and creatively, caused a break between Villeglé and Hains, as the latter believed in the significance of the artist’s contribution.[16] For his part, Villeglé believes that choice, such as exercised by Duchamp in the selection of ordinary objects as readymade works of art, fundamentally subverts accepted norms in art. He wrote in 1969: ‘L’estime particulière du choix implique le réfus de toute échelle entre l’objet créé et l’objet trouvé.’[17] (The particular value placed on choice implies a refusal to differentiate between the created object and the found object.)

The question arises, however, how far any single affiche lacérée is a found item and how far it results from Villeglé’s own decisions. In ‘Des Réalités collectives’, published in 1958, he acknowledged that, on occasion, he and Hains did contribute to the stripping of the papers for pictorial or even political effect:

Nous n’avons exposé notre collections d’affiches lacérées avec ou sans cadre que pour les préserver de la destruction; parfois découragés par la timidité de certaines déchirures, il nous était impossible de ne pas donner notre coup de pouce, ni même, en temps d’asthénie politique, de refouler notre goût de produire et de créer des faux.[18] (We have only exhibited our collection of affiches lacérées, whether framed or unframed, in order to preserve them from destruction; sometimes, discouraged by the timidity of certain tears, it was impossible for us not to put the finishing touches, nor even, in times of political debility, to force back our taste for production and to make fakes.)

This statement helps to shed light on Villeglé’s working methods. It is notable, however, that the process continued to be seen as non-interventionist, with Pierre Restany typical in describing it, in 1968, as ‘one of the purest appropriative gestures’ that ‘excludes all will towards composition or assemblage’.[19]

It is probably impossible – even undesirable – to determine whether Villeglé himself modified Jazzmen from its original state when taken from the walls. He has recently asserted that the choice was made by looking at it on the wall, from which it was taken in one piece; he recalls that no adjustments were subsequently made.[20] The presence of pencil lines at the upper right margin give an indication of this working method, showing how Villeglé determined the shape of the composition. In practical terms, the removal of a whole block of posters was often difficult. A number of earlier photographs show that they were gathered in pieces and bundled back to the studio. Some photographs, taken by Harry Shunk on 14 February 1961, show Villeglé managing to take very large pieces off the wall, but, for the most part, they came away in irregular chunks.[21] Indeed, the peeling away in strips, seen in a photograph of Villeglé working alongside Rotella,[22] coincides precisely with a form of horizontal stripping found in affiches lacérées like Porte Maillot, 1959 (private collection)[23] and the central section of Jazzmen. It is not surprising that there was an element of chance in the process of removal and thus how much survived to become the eventual work. The photographs suggest, furthermore, that the artist may have employed different techniques when pulling down the posters in order to achieve different effects.

As Villeglé describes his present practice, his intervention is ‘the minimum possible’,[24] and a recent photograph shows an assistant able to remove a wedge of posters wholesale, aided by the sheer weight of their accumulation.[25] The artist uses a water soluble PVA to lay down, or ‘marouflage’, the posters on the canvas support; the back of Jazzmen shows extensive saturation with glue. The exact timing of the marouflage in relation to the original collection of the poster is not clear. Its purpose was to help to preserve the format envisaged on site, but the artist has indicated that he also kept a stock of affiches lacérées, sometimes for years, without laying them down on canvas, and that Jazzmen was a work stored in this way.[26] Pieces that fall off in the process are re-fixed using wallpaper paste. The 1960s photographs suggest that some reconstruction must take place in order to assemble a large rectangular composition. Villeglé recalls that, although he usually orders stretchers once the affiche lacérée is laid down, Jazzmen was exhibited unstretched on its first showing in 1966 when it was nailed directly to the gallery wall (an activity which, lacking a hammer, was undertaken with a lady’s shoe). A stretcher was made but removed, and the work was stored for some years until the present stretcher was constructed.[27]

In his 1958 text ‘Des Réalités collectives’, Villeglé directly addressed the question of the artist’s intervention, which he had characterised as ‘faking’ the public’s contribution. He cited the differing views of the ‘concrete’ nature of abstract art put forward by Hans Arp and Piet Mondrian, and commented:

Nous pensons, et Arp sans doute ne nous contredira pas, que le geste de l’impulsif de la rue ne s’oppose pas à notre goût volontaire de l’action ... l’oeuvre lacérée devrait, telles les oeuvres concrètes, demeurer anonyme. [28] (We think, and without doubt Arp would not contradict us, that the impulsive gesture of the street is not opposed to our voluntary taste for action ... the lacerated work ought, like ‘concrete’ works, to remain anonymous.)

Whether the artist has acted on the work or not is, therefore, seen to be immaterial, as it should appear as if it is taken directly from the street. This suggests a humility through which Villeglé’s intervention is no more important than that of the anonymous tearer. As he simply harnesses this action, he considers the inclusion of his signature on a work to be regrettable but asserts that it facilitates ‘la reconnaissance et la préserve de la destruction’ (its recognition and its preservation from destruction).[29] Following the Chinese custom, he envisages future collectors of these works adding their signatures.[30]

Villeglé sees the affiche lacérée in relation to the aspects of chance and the fragmentation of urban culture found in collages of the Cubists and Schwitters, as well as the readymades of Duchamp.[31] He has also drawn attention to the assemblages of Johannes Baader and the precedent for tearing posters suggested by Léo Malet when working in Surrealist circles in 1935.[32] However, he only became aware of this ancestry when he moved to Paris after the Second World War. As an architecture student in his native Brittany (at the Ecole régionale des beaux-arts in Rennes from 1944 and then the Ecole des beaux-arts in Nantes), Villeglé found that the wartime Pétainist ideology of ‘Travail, Famille, Patrie’ (work, family, fatherland) excluded any reference to pre-war modernism and he only became aware of Cubism through scarce books.[33] With the conclusion of the war, political liberation led to cultural indecision; as Villeglé recalls, the questions were: ‘How can one paint and what can one paint?’[34] He shared this artistic struggle with Raymond Hains, whom he had met as a fellow student in 1945. They photographed and, in 1947, envisaged filming, the cacophonic and badly bombed docks at Nantes, establishing an interest in the fragmentary experience of the ruined city. In Saint-Malo that year Villeglé collected reinforcement wires from the sea defences as found objects.[35] He later described the twists of the wire as ‘dû plutôt à la fortune qu’à la volonté de quelque artiste’ (due to chance rather than to any artistic will) but still resulting in ‘une oeuvre classique’ (a classic work).[36] This find anticipated the acceptance of chance compositions which constituted the affiches lacérées that Hains, who had already been photographing torn posters, and then Villeglé, began to collect; Ach Alma Manetro, 1949, taken from a hoarding outside the famous La Coupole bar in Paris, is one of their earliest surviving collaborations.[37] Villeglé compares its limited chromatic range and calm composition to Cubist collage.[38] They were also aware of Surrealism through the Exposition internationale du surréalisme of 1947 and, as Benjamin Buchloh observes, reference may also be made to Surrealist automatic techniques that Villeglé ‘arrested and contained ... within the rigid shells of a pre-produced typographic matrix of found advertising formats.’[39]

The typographic emphasis of post-war posters, which were limited to propaganda and commercial use because of paper shortages,[40] converged with the collaborators’ interest in the phonetic poems of the Parisian Lettristes. They had encountered the work of these poets in the late 1940s.[41] By the mid-1950s they moved in the same circles as Isidore Isou and Gil Wolman, as well as Guy Debord, the founder of the Internationale Lettriste and (in 1957) of the Internationale Situationniste. In 1953 Hains and Villeglé combined these typographic and poetic experiences in Héperile éclaté, the publication of a deliberately illegible version of Camille Bryen’s phonetic poem ‘Héperile’ of 1950, achieved by photographing the text through rippled glass.[42] Any communication, which was already disrupted by Bryen’s avoidance of verbal conventions, was thus further assaulted by this ‘shattered’ (‘éclaté’) typography. This represented a parallel with the affiches lacérées, and one critic has noted the prominence in Villeglé’s works of ‘des textes devenus illisibles à force de lacération, et qui créent une sorte d’ultra-langage, au delà de la peinture et de la poésie’ (texts which have become illegible through the force of their laceration, and which create a sort of ultra-language, beyond painting and poetry).[43] It was in the context of these artists and poets transforming the legacy of Dada and Surrealism, that Villeglé and Hains met François Dufrêne in 1954, who also began to collect posters (though he used their ghostly reverse sides) and who introduced them to Yves Klein.

Villeglé and Hains first showed their affiches lacérées in May 1957 at the Galerie Colette Allendy, Paris, in a joint exhibition named Loi du 29 juillet 1881 ou le lyrisme à la sauvette (The Law of 29 July 1881 or Lyricism through Salvage). Showing Villeglé’s awareness of the history of the poster as part of popular culture, the title referred to the law regulating poster sites and forbidding fly-posting. The exhibition followed a show of Klein’s monochromes at the same gallery and, as Villeglé now sees it, heralded the breaking of the dominant gestural abstraction of the Salon des réalités nouvelles; this opposition was signalled in the echoing title of his ‘Des Réalités collectives’.[44] It was the inception of the Paris Biennale in October 1959 that provided the first opportunity for wider public exposure, as well as inviting comparison with Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns whose works appeared there for the first time in France. In the section of French artists proposed by seven critics including Michel Ragon and Pierre Restany, Klein exhibited a recent monochrome and Jean Tinguely exhibited a large machine, Méta-matic No.17 (Moderna Museet, Stockholm).[45] Villeglé, Dufrêne (both showing affiches lacérées) and Hains (showing his hording, Palissade des emplacements resérvés) all participated.[46] With Lucien Favory, Jean Miotte and Yehuda Neiman, the trio was included by George Noël in one of the ‘groups des informels’ commissioned ‘to compose ensembles in response to a given architectural setting’.[47] Although overshadowed by the publicity surrounding Tinguely’s painting machine, the Biennale marked a turning point and was acknowledged by André Malraux, the Minister of Culture, as a ‘breakthrough in abstract art’.[48]

This was the seed of the group gathered as Les Nouveux Réalistes in Milan in 1960 where Dufrêne, Villeglé and Hains came together with Klein and Tinguely, under the guidance of Restany.[49] Distinguished by the use of unorthodox materials and techniques, the Nouveaux Réalistes - who also included Arman, Daniel Spoerri and Martial Raysse – were united by their use of disparate materials and what Villeglé has called their ‘distance from the act of painting’.[50] In this way, quite different practices – from Klein’s monochrome paintings to the affiches lacérées - could conform to the group’s laconic joint declaration, signed on 27 October 1960: ‘Les nouveaux réalistes ont pris conscience de leur singularité collective. Nouveau Réalisme = nouvelles approches perceptives du réel.’[51] (The ‘nouveaux réalistes’ have become aware of their collective singularity. Nouveau Réalisme = new perceptual approaches to reality.)

Jazzmen was stripped down on 10 December 1961 a little over a year after this declaration, and was, therefore, situated within an intense period of group collaboration (which continued until 1963). Critical recognition came with a variety of exhibitions: in February 1961 Villeglé organised the group’s space at the Salon Comparaissons and they showed together in May at the Galerie J, run by Jeanine Restany (Pierre’s wife), in an exhibition which challenged historical comparisons with Dada, A 40° a-dessous de Dada (40° above Dada). A Festival du Nouveau Réalisme took place in Nice in July and, in October, Villeglé, Dufrene and Hains again contributed to the Paris Biennale and to The Art of Assemblage at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.[52] A much wider audience was reached through Pierre Restany’s participation in the television programme En Français dans le texte (25 April), and a measure of this popularity is found in the appearance of Villeglé and Hains at work on posters as a backdrop to a fashion shoot in Paris-Match in September.[53] Villeglé recalls that in the following year, he was filmed for cinema news stripping posters from rue de Tolbiac.[54]

This combination of media attention and international exposure afforded a degree of official acceptance. However, it did not conceal the fundamental political opposition of such art to the cultural status quo. In June 1961, two collaborative works by Villeglé and Hains were included in the latter’s exhibition La France déchirée at the Galerie J. The theme uniting Hains’ selection of affiches lacérées was the Algerian War which marked the final throes of post-colonial France. Although there is no overt political comment in Jazzmen, this capturing of popular anxieties is a stance that Villeglé shared with his colleague (he has since categorised part of his work as ‘Graffiti Politiques’).[55] It lends significance to the claim made in ‘Des Réalités collectives’ in 1958 that they might intervene on the posters ‘in times of political debility’.[56] A parallel to this approach may be found in the work of Wolf Vostell, whose use of torn posters gained a theatrical aspect that was critical of the certainties of the post-war period of ‘Reconstruction’. In his project Tour de Vanves: Theatre is in the Street of 1958, Vostell envisaged the stripping and reading of posters from a Parisian street, highlighting urban decay in such a way as to be seen to reject ‘the conditions of hyperconsumerism encouraged under Reconstruction’.[57]

It was the growing violence in Algeria, which remained territorially integral to France, that emerged in La France déchirée. Terrorist actions particularly brought this home, from the bombing of Algiers casino in 1957 by the FLN (Fronte National de Libération -National Liberation Front) – photographs of which were published in Paris-Match – to the 1961 bombing of the Paris Bourse by the right-wing anti-independence OAS (Organisation Armée Secrète – Secret Army Organisation).[58] The Algerian war also coincided with the intensification of the Cold War, and the attrition of both actual and potential conflicts was the focus of works by Villeglé’s collegues. In May 1962 Niki de Saint Phalle exhibited a work provocatively titled Autel OAS - OAS altar (Galerie de France),[59] standing for ‘oeuvre d’art sacré’ but evoking the right-wing settlers’ movement in Algeria. A month later, Christo’s closure of a street with his Iron Curtain of oil barrels responded to the recent building of the Berlin Wall.[60] Even without such an inflected political content the physical assault captured in Villeglé’s anonymously torn works - as in the case of Jazzmen - may be seen as a metaphor for this violent political disintegration being experienced in post-war France in particular and Europe in general.[61] In this way, its origin as a fragment of reality establishes for the affiche lacérée a status as witness, fleeting in its reference to transient activities but rich in its record of a particular moment.

Matthew Gale
July 2003

[1] Luc Vezin, ‘Entretien: Villeglé, Les lacérations anonymes’, Beaux Arts, no.60, Sept. 1988, p.28.
[2] Quoted in Jean-Luc Chalumeau, ‘De La Villeglé: Des Pieds sales au premier plan du tableau’, Opus International, no.112, Feb.-March 1989, p.12.
[3] Jacques Villeglé, taped interview with the author, Paris, 9 Feb. 2000, Tate Archive.
[4] Villeglé in Bernard Goy, ‘Interviews: Jacques Villeglé’, Journal of Contemporary Art, vol.4, no.1 Spring/Summer 1991, p.108.
[5] Copy of the artist’s record, Tate catalogue files.
[6] See Jacques Villeglé, ‘L’Esthétique de la rue’, Urbi & Orbi, Mâcon 1986, pp.185-90.
[7] Pierre Restany, Les Nouveaux Réalistes, Paris 1968, extracted as ‘L’Invention de la palissade’ in Raymond Hains, exhibition catalogue, Musée nationale d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 1976, p.191.
[8] Interview, Feb. 2000.
[9] Villeglé: La Lettre lacérée: Volume III du catalogue thématique des affiches lacérées (1949-1962), Paris 1990, no.LE 57, reproduced in colour pp.50-1.
[10] Ibid. no.LE 98, reproduced in colour p.75.
[11] Ibid. no.LE 1, reproduced p.13.
[12] Interview, Feb. 2000.
[13] Villeglé 1986, p.80.
[14] Le Lacéré Anonyme, Atelier François Dufrêne, Paris, June-July 1959.
[15] Jacques Villeglé, ‘Des Réalités collectives’, Grâmmes, no.2, 1958, reprinted in 1960: Les Nouveaux Réalistes, exhibition catalogue, Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris 1986, p.260.
[16] Interview, Feb. 2000.
[17] Jacques de la Villeglé, ‘L’Affiche lacérée: Ses Successives Immixtions dans les arts’, Leonardo, vol.2, no.1, Jan. 1969, p.33.
[18] Villeglé, ‘Des Réalités collectives’, in Paris 1986, p.259.
[19] Restany 1968, extracted in Raymond Hains, exhibition catalogue Paris 1976, p.190.
[20] Interview, Feb. 2000.
[21] Reproduced in Christopher Phillips, ‘When Poetry Devours the Walls’, Art in America, Feb. 1990, pp.138-9, 142.
[22] ‘Rotella e Villeglé, Parigi’, in Nouveau Réalisme 1960/1970, exhibition catalogue Rotonda della Besana, Milan 1970, ‘Rotella’ section, fig.9.
[23] Villeglé: La Lettre Lacérée: Volume III du catalogue thématique des affiches lacérées (1949-1962), Paris 1990, no.LE 52, reproduced in colour p.47.
[24] Villeglé in Goy 1991, p.107.
[25] Villeglé Techno-Rapt, exhibition catalogue, Vieille Eglise St Vincent, Mérignac 1999, p.12.
[26] Interview, Feb. 2000.
[27] Ibid.
[28] Villeglé, ‘Des Réalités collectives’, in Paris 1986, p.259.
[29] Villeglé 1969, p.41.
[30] Ibid.
[31] Ibid.
[32] Villeglé 1986, ‘Baader’, pp.121-39, ‘Léo Malet’, pp.141-50.
[33] Jacques Villeglé, Cheminements (1943/1959), Saint-Julien Molin Molette 1999, pp.12-19.
[34] Interview, Feb. 2000.
[35] Reproduced in Villeglé 1986, p.6.
[36] Villeglé 1999, p.30.
[37] Ibid. p.50.
[38] Interview, Feb. 2000.
[39] Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, ‘Hantaï, Villeglé and the Dialectics of Painting’s Dispersal’, October, vol.91 Winter 2000, p.32.
[40] Interview, Feb. 2000.
[41] ‘Raymond Hains, entretien’, in François Dufrêne (1930-1982), exhibition catalogue, Musée de l’Abbaye Ste-Croix, Les Sables d’Olonne 1988, unpag.
[42] Hains / Villeglé, Héperile éclaté, Paris 1953; reproduced in Villeglé 1986, p.55.
[43] Jean-Baptiste Lebrun, ‘Les “affichistes”: De la Rage à la froideur’, XXe Siècle, vol.37, no.45, Dec. 1975, p.67.
[44] Villeglé 1999, p.118.
[45] Reproduced in K.G. Pontus Hultén, Jean Tinguely: ‘Méta’, London 1975, pp.97-103.
[46] Reproduced in situ in Raymond Hains, exhibition catalogue Paris 1976, p.48.
[47] Première Biennale de Paris, exhibition catalogue Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris 1959, p.135.
[48] Pontus Hultén 1975, p.103.
[49] Les Nouveux Réalistes, Galleria Apollinaire, Milan, April 1960.
[50] Interview, Feb. 2000.
[51] Déclaration constitutive du Nouveau Réalisme, reproduced in Paris 1986, p.216 (colour).
[52] 1960: Les Nouveaux Réalistes, exhibition catalogue, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris 1986, pp.78-85.
[53] Ibid. pp.79, 85, reproduced pp.81, 87.
[54] Bernard Lamarche-Vadel, Villeglé: La Présentation en jugement, Paris 1990, p.48.
[55] Villeglé: Graffiti Politiques ou autres: Volume II du catalogue thématique des affiches lacérées, Paris 1989.
[56] Villeglé, ‘Des Réalités collectives’, in Paris 1986, p.259.
[57] Claudia Mesch, ‘Vostell’s Ruins: Décollage and the Mnemotechnic Space of the Postwar City’, Art History, vol.23, no.1, March 2000, p.92.
[58] Thomas Michael Gunther, ‘Le Choc des images de Paris Match’, in Laurent Gervereau ed, La France en Guerre d’Algérie, Paris 1992 cited in David Alan Mellor, The Barry Joule Archive – Works on Paper Attributed to Francis Bacon, exhibition catalogue Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin 2000, p.16; see also Pontus Hulten 1975, p.230-1.
[59] Reproduced in colour, in Paris: Capital of the Arts 1900-1968, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London 2002, p.250.
[60] 1960: Les Nouveaux Réalistes, Paris 1986, p.93.
[61] Laurent Bertrand Dorléac, ‘La France dechirée’ in Gervereau 1992, pp.202-9, cited in Mellor 2000, p.16.

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