Born in 1954 in Saint Mandé, France
Lives and works in Paris, France and Berlin, Germany

Bernard FRIZE

BERNARD FRIZE

Born in Saint-Mandé, France.
Lives and works between Paris and Berlin

http://www.bernardfrize.com

AWARDS

2015 Kathe-Kollwitz Prize, Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Germany

2011 The Fred Thieler Prize for Painting, Berlinische Galerie, Berlin, Germany

1993 DAAD, Berlin, Germany

1984 Villa Medici, Rome, Italy


SOLO SHOWS

2016
- "Dawn comes up so young", Galerie Perrotin, New York, USA
- "Turn the Pieces into a Place", Galerie Nächst St Stephan, Vienne, Austria
- "Line Striping", Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Antwerpen, Belgium

2015
- "This is a Bridge", Fondaçao Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, Portugal
- "Bernard Frize - Günter Umberg", Fondation Fernet-Branca, Saint Louis, France
- Kathe-Kollwitz Prize, Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Germany

2014
- "We have a thread, and we want to know the whole cloth", Johyun Gallery, Busan, South Korea
- "Hello, my Name is Bernard Frize", Galerie Perrotin, Paris, France
- "Colour divides", Simon Lee Gallery, London, UK

2013
- "Winter Diary" Pace Gallery, New York, USA
- "On the Side there is no Handrail", Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong

2012
- Simon Lee Gallery, Hong Kong

2011
- Christian Stein Gallery, Milan, Italy
- "Ad Nauseum", Galerie Perrotin, Paris, France
- The Fred Thieler Prize, Berlinische Galerie, Berlin, Germany
- "Under the Rainbow" Galerie Micheline Szwajcer", Anvers, Belgium

2010
- "And How and Where and Who" Morsbroich Museum, Leverkusen, Germany
- "Fat Painting", Patrick de Brock Gallery, Knokke-Hest, Belgium
- "Red, Yellow and Blue" Simon Lee Gallery, London, UK

2009
- "Oh Happy Days!", Galerie Perrotin, Miami, USA
- Hakgojae Gallery, Seoul, Korea
- "Foggy Days", Galerie Naechst St. Stephan, Rosemarie Schwarzwaelder, Ö - Vienna, Austria

2008
- "Con Alma", Galerie Patrick Painter, Inc, Santa Monica, USA

2007
- "Long Lines (Often Closed)", Galerie Simon Lee, Londres, UK
- "Longues lignes (souvent fermées)", Galerie Perrotin, Paris, France
- "Fat Paintings", Kunsthallen Brandts Klaedefabrik, Odense, Denmark

2006
- Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Antwerp, Belgium
- "Isotopies", Galerie Wilma Lock, St. Gallen, Switzerland

2005
- "Faces et profils", Galerie Perrotin, Paris, France
- Galerie Nächst St. Stephan, Vienne, Austria
- "Euler Tour, Pavitram, Sona...etc", Emmanuel Perrotin Gallery, Miami, USA
- "52 Angles", Art Unlimited, Bâle, Switzerland

2004
- Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Antwerp, Belgium
- Patrick Painter Gallery, Santa Monica, USA
- Galerie Wilma Lock, St. Gallen, Switzerland

2003
- Studio A Otterndorf, Museum Gegenstandsfreier Kunst Landkreis, Cuxhaven, Denmark
- "Postiers, ours, falaises, carafes, mobylettes et cannes à sucre", Galerie Perrotin, Paris, France
- Frith Street, London, UK
- "Hands on", Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK
- "Aplat", Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France

2002
- Gemeentemuseum, La Haye, Netherlands
- S.M.A.K., Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent, Belgium
- Galerie Patrick Painter, Inc, Santa Monica, USA

2001
- "Bernard Frize, nouvelles peintures", Galerie Wilma Lock, St. Gallen, Switzerland

2000
- Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France
- Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Münster, Germany
- Leslie, Cohan & Browne, New York, USA

1999/2000
- Kunstverein St. Gallen Kunstmuseum, St. Gallen, Switzerland

1999
- Galerie Wilma Lock, St. Gallen, Switzerland
- Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Antwerp, Belgium
- Carré d'Art, Musée d'Art Contemporain, Nîmes, France
- Studio A Arte, E. Invernizzi, Milano, Italy
- Galerie Nächst St. Stephan, Vienna, Austria
- Museum Moderner Kunst, Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna, Austria
- Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sydney, Australia

1998-99
- De Pont Stichting, Tilburg, Netherlands

1997
- Centre Culturel, Issoire, France
- Galerie Nächst St. Stephan, Vienna, Austria
- Frith Street Gallery, London, UK

1996
- Galerie Micheline Szwajcer (avec Marthe Wery), Antwerp, Belgium
- Galerie Wilma Lock, St. Gallen, Switzerland

1995
- Kunstverein Elster-Park, Leipzig, Germany
- Kunstverein Arnsberg, Arnsberg, Germany
- Frith Street Gallery, London, UK

1994
- "Suite au Rouleau", (cat.), Chisenhale Gallery, London, UK
- Le Capitou, Centre d’art contemporain, Fréjus, France
- Galerie Nächst St. Stephan, Vienna, Austria

1993-94
- Kunsthalle, Zürich, Switzerland
- D.A.A.D. Galerie, Berlin, Germany

1992
- Galerie Crousel-Robelin-BAMA, Paris, France

1991
- Musée Départemental d’art Contemporain, Rochechouart, France

1990
- Galerie Crousel-Robelin-BAMA, Paris, France

1989
- Grey Art Gallery, New York, USA

1988
- "De là ces innombrables noms", (cat.), A.R.C. Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France
- Galeria La maquinà Espanola, Madrid, Spain
- Galerie Crousel-Robelin-BAMA, Paris, France
- Musée des Beaux Arts André Malraux, Le Havre, France
- Salon d’Angle, Nantes, France

1987
- Galerie Le Chanjour, Nice, France
- Galerie 121 Galerij, Antwerp, Belgium

1986
- Villa Medici, Rome, Italy
- Galerie Crousel-Hussenot, Paris, France
- Maison de la culture et de la communication, Saint-Etienne, France

1985
- Galerie Crousel-Hussenot, Paris, France
- Galerie Le Chanjour, Nice, France

1983
- Galerie Lucien Durand, Paris, France

1981
- Museum für Sub-Kultur, Berlin, Germany

1980
- Galerie Lucien Durand, Paris, France

1979
- Galerie Lucien Durand, Paris, France




GROUP SHOWS


2016
- "Ortswechsel", Schauwerk Sindelfingen, Sindelfingen, Germany
- "Subliminal Shifts", Tracy Williams Gallery, New York, USA

2015
- "Faux Amis", Simon Lee Gallery, London, UK
- "Couleurs Abstraites", Abbaye de Granville, FRAC Haute-Normandie, le Havre, France
- "Bernard Frize - Günter Umberg", Fondation Fernet-Branca, Saint Louis, France
- "Life in a Castle - Works from the Collection", Musée Départemental d'Art Contemporain de Rochechouart, Rochechouart, France
- "Abstraction excentrique, géométrie comique", Le Garage, Brive, France
- "Bonjour la France", Seoungnam  Art Centre & Goyang Culture Foundation, Seongnam & Goyang, Korea, Curated by Sunhee Choi, Korea

2014
- "Stalactica", Quincaillerie Vander Eycken, Brussels, Belgium
- "Persian Rose Chartreuse", Equinox Gallery, Vancouver, Canada
- "Dries Van Noten", Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris, France
- "Freundliche Ubernahme", Künstler zeigen ihre Sammlung, Marta Herford, Germany
- "Elementare Malerei", Kunstmuseum St Gallen, St Gallen, Germany
- "Walk the line", Simon Lee Gallery, Hong Kong


2013
-"Happy Birthday, 25 ans de la Galerie Perrotin", Tripostal, Lille, France
- "Bernard Frize, Guy Mees, Daan Van Golden", Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Anvers, Belgique
- "Vues d'en haut", Centre Pompidou, Metz, France
- "En suspension", FRAC Pays de la Loire, Carquefou, France
- "Signac, les couleurs de l'eau", Musée des Impressionnismes, Giverny, France
- " Tacet/Les pléiades - 30 ans des frac", Musée des Beaux Arts, Dole, France
- "Wiedersehen - Eine Ausstellung mit ausgewählten Ankäufen aus den Jahren 2001-2013", Museum gegenstandsfreier Kunst, Ottendorf, Germany
- "Juegos de lenguaje", Centro de Artes Visuales Helga de Alvear, Caceres, Spain
- "El Arte del Presente", Coleccion Helga de Alvear, Centro Cibeles de Cultura y Ciudadania, Madrid, Spain
- "Four corners of the world", Hite Collection, Seoul, South Korea
- "Geist und Form : Ten Painters from Berlin", Grunwald Gallery of Art, Bloomington, USA

2012
- "A iminência das poéticas", 30th Sao Paulo Biennial, Brazil
- "La peinture mode d'emploi, Le 19, Crac Montbéliard, Montbéliard, France
- "Neue Wege der Abstraktion Fine Arts", Düsseldorf, Germany
- "Forme et Informe", Les Collections du Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes s'exposent au Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dole, Dole, France
- "The Indiscipline of Painting", International abstraction from the 1960s to now, Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, UK
- "Group Show", Galerie Perrotin, Paris, France
- "La peinture française contemporaine, combinaisons de l'histoire", PERMM Museum of contemporary art, Perm, Russia
- "L'Inventaire, vol 2" Acquisition 1985, Frac Haute-Normandie, Sotteville-lès-Rouen, France
- "Voor eeuwig de jouwe", Stadsgalerij Heerlen Schunck, Heerlen, Netherlands
- "Gegenwarts-Kunst 1945" Heute, Städel Museum, Franckfurt, Germany

2011
- "Ornamental Structures", Stiftung Saarländischer Kulturbesitz, Germany
- "Color in Flux", Weserburg, Museum of Modern Art, Germany
- "If we cannot free ourselves, we can free our vision", Raum für bild wort ton, Galerie oqbo, Berlin, Germany
- "Within/Beyond Borders, Byzantines & Christian Museum, Athens, Greece
- "Des Mondes Parrallèles", Musée du Vieux-Château, Laval, France
- "Focus: Abstraction", Works from the Essl Collectio, Essl Museum, Vienna, Austria
- The Indiscipline of Painting: International abstraction from the 1960s to now,
Tate St Ives, UK
- "Creating the New Century", Dayton Art Institut, Dayton, Ohio, USA
- "Untitled (painting)", Luhring Augustine, New York, USA
- "Incidents Maîtrisés", Espace de l’Art Concret, Mouans-Sartoux, France

2010
- "De leur temps 3, les 10 ans du Prix Marcel Duchamp", Musée d’Art moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg, France
- "Das Viereck heute noch ist: Abstraktion der Abstraktion", European Fine Art, Berlin, Germany
- "Negotiation, Today Art Museum" curated by Huand Du et Jonathan Watkins, Today Art Museum, Beijing
- Kreo at Simon Lee Gallery, Simon Lee Gallery, London, UK
- Simon Lee at Kreo, Galerie Kreo, Paris, France
- "Malerei: Prozess und Expansion", Museum Moderner Kunst, Ludwig collection, Vienne, Austria
- "Next Generation", Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Switzerland
- "Hope!", Palais des Arts et du Festival, Dinard, France
- "Babel", Frac Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand, France
- "It must be abstract", Galleria Cardi, Pietrasanta, Italy
- " Le sourire du chat", Frac des Pays de la Loire, Carquefou, France
- "Micheline chez Mai 36", Mai 36 Galerie, curated by Micheline Tob-Szwajcer, Zürich
- "Zeigen, Eine Audiotour durch Berlin von Karin Sander", Tamporäre Kunsthalle, Berlin, Germany
- "Slow Paintings" Morsbroich Museum, Leverkusen, Germany
- "Songe d'eau", Musée le Daviaud, La Barre-de-Monts, France

2009
- "Zeigen. Eine Audiotour durch Berlin von Karin Sander", Temporäre Kunsthalle, Berlin, Germany
- "Slow Paintings", Morsbroich Museum, Leverkusen, Germany
- "Les nuages... là-bas... les merveilleurs nuages", Musée André Malraux, Le Havre, France
- "Sammlung Reloaded", Kunstmuseum Bonn, Bonn, Germany
- "Summa Summarum", Galerie Wilma Lock, ST. Gallen, Switzerland
- "La pintura y sus alrededores", Palacio de Sastago, Zaragoza, Spain
- Musée d'art de Toulon rénové, expositions des collections, Toulon, France
- "Obsession for Collection", Summerfield Gallery, University of Gloucestershire, UK
- "Mypainting.nu", Lokaal 01 Breda, Netherlands
- "Antes de ayer y pasado manana; O le que puede ser pinture ho", MACUF, Museo de arte contemporaneo Union Fenose, Coruna, Spain

2008
- "Painting (Still)", curated by Ignasi Aballi, Elba Benitez Gallery, Madrid, Spain
- "Abstrakt/abstract", Museum Moderner Kunst Kärnten, Klagenfurt, Austria
- "Qui a peur de la couleur", FRAC Haute Normandie, France
- "Monet-Kandinsky-Rothko and the aftermath, Paths of abstract painting", BA-CA, Kunstforum, Vienna, Austria
- "There is Desire Left, Knock knock!", 40 ans de beaux-arts de la collection Mondstudio, Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland
- There is Desire Left, Knock knock!", 40 ans de beaux-arts de la collection Mondstudio, Museum Wiesbaden, Germany
- "Le Musée De Pont à Paris", Institut Néerlandais, Paris, France
- "35% VRAI 60% FAUX", Simon Lee Gallery, London, UK
- "Didier Demozay choisit dans la collection du Frac et présente quatre tableaux", Frac Franche-Comté

2007
- "Rouge Baiser", oeuvres de la collection du FRAC Pays de la Loire, Nantes, France
- Collection Société Génerale oeuvres choisies, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, France
- Bernard Frize, Olav Ch. Jennsen, Xavier Noiret-Thomé, Stephen Westfall, Galerie Wilma Lock St. Gallen, Switzerland
- "Very Abstract and Hyper Figurative", Thomas Dane Gallery, London, Great-Britain
- IVAM - Institut Valencià d'Art Modern, Valencia, Spain - "De leur temps 2", Musée de Grenoble, France
- Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK

2006
- "Essential Painting" National Museum of Osaka, Osaka, Japan
- "Fokus: Günther Förg / Bernard Frize", Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland
- "Where are we going? Selections from the Francois Pinault Collection", Palazzo Grassi, Venezia, Italy
- "Le chant rythmique de l'esprit", Espace de l'Art concret, Mouans en Sartoux, France
- "Neue Malerei. Erwerbungen 2002-2005", Frieder Burda Museum, Baden-Baden, Germany
- "El momento suspendido", The H & F Collection, MARCO Museo de Arte Contemporanea de Vigo, Vigo, Espagne

2005
- "EindhovenIstanbul", Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Netherlands
- "Les apparences sont souvent trompeuses", CAPC Musée d'art contemporain, Bordeaux, France
- "Sweet Temptations: Dialogue mit der Sammlung Rolf Ricke", Kunstverein St. Gallen Kunstmuseum, St. Gallen, Switzerland
- "The experience of Art", organisé par Maria de Corral, 51° Biennale di Venezia, Italy
- "Opus, Nouvelle présentation des collections permanentes", Musée d'art moderne de Lille Métropole, Lille, France
- "Nach Rokytnik - Die Sammlung der EVN", Museum Moderner Kunst - Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna, Austria
- "Utopie réalisée, Présentation de l'Espace de l'Art Concret, Mouans-Sartoux", organisé par Sybil Albers, Haus Konstruktive, Zürich, Switzerland
- "Extreme Abstraction", Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, USA
- "Bienvenue à...", Musée de Grenoble, Grenoble, France
- "Le chant rythmique de l’esprit", Espace de l’Art Concret, Mouans-Sartoux, France
- Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France
- "Miridas y conceptos en la coleccion Helga de Alvear", MEIAC, Badajos, Spain
- "The Suspended moment", H & F collection, Altkirch, Germany

2004
- "Le syndrome Babylone", collection du FRAC Auvergne, Annemasse, France
- "The eclectic eye", selections from the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, Bakersfield Museum of Art, Bakersfield, USA
- "Pour les oiseaux", FRAC des Pays de la Loire, Carquefou, France
- "Still mapping the moon", Kunstmuseum Bonn, Bonn, Germany
- "Nine Little Giants", Thomas Schulte Gallery, Berlin, Germany
- "The power of Art", Forum, Barcelona, Spain

2003
- "Pale Fire", Galerie Nordenhake, Berlin, Germany
- "Leben mit zeitgenössischer Kunst / Sammlung Wojda, eine Auswahl", St. Veit an der Glan, Kärnten, Austria
- "Total Pictural", Ecole supérieure des beaux-arts, Toulouse, France
- "Reflexiones (Bernard Frize, Callum Innes, Prudencio Iràzabal)", Galeria Helga de Alvear, Madrid, Spain
- "New abstract painting painting abstract now", Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen, Germany
- "Een keuze", Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp, Belgium

2002
- "Crossing Cultures", Kunsthaus Mürz, Mürzzuschlag, Germany
- Project : "Rinascimento / Nascimento", SMAK, Ghent, Belgium
-"Painting on the move: Jackson Pollock, Sarah Morris, Bernard Frize", Kunstmuseum Basel & Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel, Switzerland
- "Group Exhibition : David Claerbout, Wim Delvoye, Alicia Framis, Bernard Frize, Daan Van Golden, Ann Veronica Janssens, Mark Luyten, Guy Mees, Marthe Wéry, Christopher Wool", Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Antwerp, Belgium
- "Signes du temps", Frac Bretagne, Pontivy, France
- "La voie abstraite", Fondation Daniel et Florence Guerlain, Les Mesnuls, France
- "Chroma", espace de l'art concret, Mouans-Sartoux, France
- "French Collection", MAMCO, Genève, Switzerland

1999-00
- Mark Francis-Bernard Frize-Imi Knoebel-Beat Zoderer, Galerie Wilma Lock, St Gallen, Switzerland
- "Zeitweden", Kunstmuseum Bonn, Bonn, Germany
- Kunstlerhaus Vienne, Vienna, Austria
- Kunsthalle Krems, Germany

1999
- "Aux dernières nouvelles", FRAC Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand, France
- "Histoire d'une collection", Centre Culturel Valery Larbaud, Galerie Pierre Coulon, Vichy, France
- "0 to 60 in 10 years-a decade in Soho", Frith Street Gallery, London, Great-Britain
- "Sarajevo 2000", Palais Liechtenstein, Museumquartier, Vienna, Austria
- "Der Künstler als Kurator : Gunter Umberg", Galerie Nächst St. Stephan, Vienna, Austria
- "Super-abstr-action", cura di A.Busto, THE BOX associati, Turin, Italy

1998-99
- "Die ERSTE Sammlung zu Gast im Kunsthaus Mürzzuschlag", Kunsthaus Mürzzuschlag, Germany

1998
- "Günter Umberg présente...", Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgium
- "Kujundid, Objktid, Stseenid", Tallina Kunstihoone, Tallinna, Estonia
- Galerie F. 15. Albi, Moss, Holland
- "Painting/ Now and Forever", Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, USA
- "Every day", (cat.), 11th Biennale of Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

1997
- "Images, Objets, Scènes, Quelques aspects de l’art en France", (cat.), Le Magasin, CNAC, Grenoble, France
- Galerie Wilma Lock, St. Gallen, Switzerland
- "L’Empreinte", (cat.), MNAM - Centre G. Pompidou, Paris, France
- Marthe Wery, Bernard Frize, (cat.), Le Parvis, Centre d’art contemporain, Pau, France
- "Peintures françaises", (cat.), Villa Medici, Rome, Italy
- "Wetterleuchten", Galerie E. Canus, La Colle-sur-Loup, Organisé par Günter Umberg, France
- "Pendant les travaux, l’expo continue...", Faux-Mouvement, Metz, France
- Hamburg Leuchtfeuer - Gemeinsam für Aids-Hilfe, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, Germany
- "Stepping Up, Andrew Mummery", London, Great-Britain
- "Vaizdai, objektai, scenos, Prancuzijos Dailé nuo 1978 uju, metu, Siuolaikinio meno centras", Vilnius, Lithuania

1996-97
- "Pittura", (cat.), Castello di Rivara, Rivara, Torino, Italy

1996
- J.M. Armleder, B. Frize, S. Parrino, R. Prince, Le Consortium, Dijon, France
- "Nuevas abstracciones / abstrakte Malerei heute", (cat.), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain; Kunsthalle, Bielefeld, Germany; Museu d’art contemporani, Barcelone, Spain
- "L’Objet de la peinture", FRAC Bretagne, Châteaugiron, France
- "Black, Grey and White", Galerie Bugdan und Kaimer, Düsseldorf, Germany


1995-96
- Galerie Nächst St. Stephan, Vienne, Austria
- "Color and Paint", Kunstmuseum, St. Gallen, Switzerland
- "Passions Privées - Collections particulières d’art moderne et contemporain en France", Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France
- "Collections / Collection", (cat.), Musée d’art et d’industrie, St Etienne, France

1995
- "Objet, déclencheur de formes", Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Tours, France
- "Thresholds / Seuils", National Gallery of Modern Art, (cat.), New Dehli, India
- Morceaux choisis du F.N.A.C., Le Magasin, Grenoble, France
- "Pittura Immedia - Malerei in den 90er Jahren", (cat.), Neue Galerie am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz, Austria
- "Das Abenteuer der Malerei", (cat.), Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany; Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart, Germany
- "Acquisitions récentes", FRAC Bretagne, Galerie du TNB, Rennes, France
- "Positionen - Beobachtung zum Stand der Malerei in den 90er Jahren", (cat.), Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
- Lilian Ball, Bernard Frize, Marcia Hafif, Château de Chazelles, Saint-Alban-les-Eaux, France

1994
- "Conditional Painting", Galerie Nächst St. Stephan, Vienna, Austria
- "Original Paintings" (avec L. Milroy et A. Torem), Institut Français du Royaume-Uni, London, UK
- "Chance, Choice and Irony", Todd Gallery, London, UK
- "Le quart d’heure américain", Espace FRAC, Dijon, France
- "Symphonie en Sous-Sol", exposition présentée par Nathalie Obadia, Galerie Renos Xippas, Paris, France
- "Private view - Discrete images", Frith Street Gallery, London, UK
- "Comme une image", Galerie Gilbert Brownstone, Paris, France
- Die ERSTE Sammlung - Von 1988 bis 1994 - Positionen aktueller Kunst,
Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna, Austria
- "Impressions multiples", Collection Caisse des dépôts, (cat.), Centro Cultural del Conde Duque, Madrid, Spain
- "Beats / Pulsares" - Collection Caisse des dépôts, (cat.), Centro Cultural de Belem, Lisbonne, Portugal

1993-94
- "Der zerbrochene Spiegel - Positionen zur Malerei", (cat.), Kunsthalle Wien & Messepalast, Vienna, Austria; Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, Germany

1993
- "La Maison", Douai, France
- "Playtime, une exposition de peinture", (cat.), Le Capitou, Centre d’art contemporain, Fréjus, France
- "Une collection française - Collection Caisse des dépôts", (cat.), Maison Centrale des Artistes, Moscow, Russia

1992-93
- Das offene Bild, (cat.), Westfä lisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Münster, Germany; Museum der bildenden Künst, Leipzig, Germany

1992
- "Les iconodules, la question de l’image", (cat.), Musée des Beaux-Arts André Malraux, Le Havre, France
- Collection de la Caisse des dépôts et consignations : Acquisition 1969/199, 56, Rue Jacob, Paris, France
- "Regard Multiple - Acquisitions de la Société des Amis du Musée national d’art moderne", (cat), Centre G. Pompidou, Paris, France
- "C’est pas la fin du monde - un point de vue sur l’art des années 80", (cat.), Le Musée d’application, Université Rennes 2, Rennes, France
- Musée de Metz, France
- "Dumb Painting", (cat.), Centraal Museum, Utrecht, Netherlands

1991-92
- "Carnegie International", (cat.), The Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, USA

1991
- "La peinture abstraite dans les collections du FRAC Bretagne", Centre d’art contemporain, Quimper, France

1990
- "Régions de dissemblance", (cat), Musée départemental d’art contemporain, Rochechouart, France
- "Real Allegories", Lisson Gallery, London, Great-Britain
- "Aperto", (cat.), Biennale di Venezia, Venise, Italy
- "Tony Cragg, Bernard Frize", Espace FRAC, Dijon, France

1989
- "16 (+/-) dans le désordre" , E.N.A.D., Limoges, France
- "Oiron à nouveau - Collection du F.N.A.C.", Château d’Oiron, Thouars, France
- "Histoires de Musée", (cat.), Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France
- Galerie des Rambles, Marseille, France
- "Une collection pour la Corse", (cat.), Musée d’Ethnographie, Bastia, France

1988
- "Les Indépendants", Galerie Charles Cartwright, Paris, France
- "5e Ateliers internationaux des Pays de la Loire", (cat.), Clisson, France

1987
- "Perspectives cavalières", (cat.), Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Tourcoing, France
- "Traversées", FRAC Pays de la Loire, Chapelle de l’Hôpital St Julien, Château-Gontier, France
- Uluslararasi Istanbul Ç agdas Sanat Sergileri / International Istanbul Contemporary Art Exhibition, & laquo; Fransa’da 80’li Yillar / Les Années 80 en France & raquo; (cat.), Resim ve Müszesi, Hareket Köskü / Musée de peinture et de sculpture, Hareket Kiosk, Istanbul, Turkey

1986
- 18ème Festival international de la peinture 1986, (cat.), Château-Musée,
Cagnes-sur-Mer, France
- "Acquisitions récentes", F.N.A.C., Accrochage 1, Rue Berryer, Paris, France
- "Traverses", FRAC Pays de la Loire, Château-Gonthier, France
- "F. Four French", (cat.), Lang & O’Hara Gallery, New York, USA
- "Abstraits", Le Consortium, Dijon, France
- Collection du FRAC Bourgogne, Dijon, France
- "Art français / Positions", (cat.); B.I.G., Berlin, Germany; Halle Chanot, Marseille, France
- "Tableaux abstraits", (cat.), Villa Arson - Centre National d’Art Contemporain, Nice, France

1985
- Galerie Crousel-Hussenot, Paris, France
- "Figuration Libre - Ivre Figuration", Centre Culturel Français, Roma, Italy

1984
- "Rite, Rock, Rêve - Jeune Peinture française", Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, (cat.), Lausanne, Switzerland; Heidelberger Kunstverein im Ottheinrichsbau des Heidelberger Schlosses, Heidelberg, Germany ; Kunsthaus Aarau, Aarau, Switzerland), Sonja Henies og Nils Onstads Stiftelser, Oslo, Norway ; Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum, Aalborg, Germany
- "Préfiguration d’une collection d’art contemporain à Nîmes," Musée des Beaux- Arts & Galerie des Arènes, Nîmes, France
- "Post-olympic art", L.A.C.E., Los Angeles, USA, (cat.) ; Galerie Beau Lézard, Paris, France
- "Un hôtel revisité", Fondation Jourdan, Paris, France (cat.)

1983
- "France / Tours / Art actuel / Biennale d’art contemporain" Tours, France (cat.)
- "Egal, Hauptsache gut! / Qu’importe si c’est bien", (cat.), Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn, Germany ; Park Channot, Halle 8, Marseille, France
- "New French Painting", Riverside Studio & Gimpel fils Gallery, London, UK (cat.) ; Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, UK ; John Hansard Gallery, Southampton, UK ; The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, UK

1982
- Galerie Claudine Bréguet, Paris, France
- "Sans titre", Musée de Toulon, France
- "Ateliers", P.S.1, New York, USA

1981
- "Transitif, intransigeant", Galerie Transform, Paris, France (cat.)
- "Murs", Musée National d’art Moderne, Centre G. Pompidou, Paris, France (cat.)

1980
Fundación Touls, Barcelona, Spain

1979
- "Tendances de l’art en France - Parti-pris autre", A.R.C. Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France (cat.)
- Galerie Katia Pissaro, Paris, France

1978
- "Impact 3", Musée d’art et d’industrie, Saint-Etienne, France (cat.)

1977
- "Travaux 77", A.R.C. Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France (cat.)



PUBLIC COLLECTIONS:


NMAO National Museum of Art Osaka, Osaka, Japan

Tate Gallery, London, UK Hiscox Art Projects, London, UK

Tate Modern, London, England

Museum Of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, USA

Weisman Museum, Minneapolis, USA

Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, USA

Museum of Contemporary Art, Musée d'art contemporain, Montréal, Canada

Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland

Kunstmuseum, St. Gallen, Switzerland

Kunstmuseum, Zürich, Switzerland

Museum für Gegenwartskunst - Emanuel Hoffmann-Stiftung, Basel, Switzerland

Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig-MUMOK, Vienna, Austria Essl Museum, Klosterneuburg, Austria

MUKHA, Antwerpen, Belgium SMAK, Ghent, Belgium

Musée national d’art et d’histoire, Luxembourg, Luxembourg

MUDAM - Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg

Central Museum, Utrecht, Netherlands

De PONT stichting voor hedendaagse kunst, Tilburg, Netherlands

Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen, Germany

Daimler Contemporary, Berlin, Germany

Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany

Museum Gegenstandsfreier Kunst Landkreis Cuxhaven, Germany Museum fur Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany

Städel Museum, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany

Museo Nacional Centro de Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain Fundacio Caixa de Pensions, Barcelona, Spain

Fundação de Arte Moderna e Contemporânea - Colecção Berardo, Lisboa, Portugal

MNAM Centre Centre Pompidou, Paris, France

Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris, Paris, France

Musée départemental de Rochechouart, France

Carré d'art, Musée de Nîmes, France

Musée des Beaux-arts, Toulon, France

Musée d'Art moderne, St Etienne, France

Musée de Dôle, Dôle, France

Espace de l'art concret, Mouans en Sartoux, France

Caisse des dépôts et consignation, Paris, France

Fond National d'Art Contemporain de Paris, Paris, France

Fond Municipal d'Art Contemporain de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France Fond Régional d'Art Contemporain :
- Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand, France
- Basse-Normandie, Caen, France
- Bourgogne, Dijon, France
- Bretagne, Châteaugiron, France
- Corse, Corte, France
- Franche-Comté, Besançon, France
- Haute-Normandie, Sotteville-les-Rouen
- Languedoc-Roussillon, Montpellier, France
- Limousin, Limoges, France
- Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, Marseille, France
- Pays de la Loire, Carquefou, France
- Rhône-Alpes, Lyon, France



Bernard FRIZE

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And How and Where and Who (Morsbroich Exhibition, 2010)

by Bernard Frize


I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me what I knew)
Their names are What and Why and Who
And How and Where and When.
 
The Elephant's Child, Ruyard Kipling

I started painting again on Sundays in 1976. The reasons that had stopped me painting for a long time had become pointless. I started a series of small-format paintings that would be very easy to work on in the tiny apartment I then lived in, and in what free time I had. I didn’t know what sort of results I would produce, but was convinced by the plan or, at least, I was sufficiently enthusiastic about it to embark on a process which, I anticipated, would require more than a year’s work. The precarious means at my disposal determined the basis of the project, and I was happy to stick to it. I felt happier painting in oils: on the one hand, the paint would have time to dry during the week before another layer was applied and, on the other, I needed to identify myself within a pictorial filiation. And yet I wanted these paintings to be the results of labour, that there should be nothing to distinguish what I was doing from a labourer’s or craftsman’s work. I chose the smallest paintbrush possible, specially designed for tracing fine lines. The surface of these paintings is saturated with incalculable numbers of horizontal and vertical lines, it would be impossible to establish how many different colours there are. There was something ordinary, absolutely everyday and almost absurd about filling the surface with this mesh, and I wanted to think that someone else would be just as capable of carrying it out (this represented a willingness on my part to share and, as a bare minimum, a way of being like everyone else). Achieving these paintings required a lack of expertise, a demonstration of this self-evident fact, while still allowing for the possibility of elaborating a meaning through these everyday gestures. Feelings and emotions do not belong here. I had established simple rules according to which the vertical lines were in certain colours and the horizontal ones in others. Nothing is described. No composition. The structure is like the surface. No referent apart, perhaps, from being classifiable as painting, and no auto-reference. I found it amusing that the paint accumulated on the edges as if the canvas might grow as I worked. The result turned into a discontinuous grid, almost a texture. When you walk past the painting, the movement backwards and forwards annihilates and reconstitutes the multitude as a vibrant monochrome.

These were my first paintings in which the materials, the technique (however minimal it may have been) and the contents (the “what was thought”) showed solidarity. Displaying my work became part of my activity as a painter, and, as such, I had to take into consideration its implications. My selflessness was matched by my naivety. I lived in the disappearing world of eternal art, where dialogues with dead painters played an important part.

Thirty years later, I recognise my debt to the prescriptions of the day: not saying “I”, minimising the pictorial language, finding a workable means of communication in the paint itself etc. After all, I am the product of history, of the accumulation of beliefs and values that influence my choices. As with everyone else, that is how I live in a coherent model of the world, and communicate a reading of it.
I must come back to what stopped me painting for a very long time. The beginning of the 1970s was a painful period for me, when I struggled to reconcile what felt to me like a conflict between political ideas (or perhaps only political morals) and individual activity as an artist.

I still see those old images of the modern painter, a thoughtful ant marching off to daily life, in amongst the crowd, his perceptions, shapes and colours saturating the fragments of reality in future painting, crystallising and condensing both the fight and the sense of hope… The black square on a white background hanging at the front of Kasimir Malevitch’s hearse, Alexander Mikhaïlovitch Rodtchenko’s clowns, or even David Alfaro Siqueiros’s experiments using cactus juice as a political way of inscribing his pictorial practices as a continuation of indigenous art… It was too late to believe in all that.

At the time I was supplied with pitiful examples in France, where the reason for painting in the first place was lost, the subjects complacent, and the artists’ attitudes towards the authorities indecent (and had been since the collaboration, during the Second World War). On the other side of the Atlantic, Barnett Newman had responded to Harold Rosenberg by saying that if “ he and others could read (one of my paintings) properly, it would mean the end of all state capitalism and totalitarialism. (Interview with Dorothy Seckler, Art In America, vol. 50, No 2, summer 1962).

Finding my own position meant politically inhabiting what I was practicing, but before being politically correct, shouldn’t a painting be artistically correct. Being conscious of one’s inclusion in society can’t be sold off cheaply by creating denunciatory images, as so often happens.

I never managed to overcome the problem of reducing the gap between an individual activity and a political commitment, if political genuinely does mean (living) together. I felt cleaved in two; one side immersed in a social activity and the other unhappy not to be shut away in a studio where, in isolation, I would have been a demigod in a world made for my own use. The beginning of the 70s was a time of disenchantment, and the collapse of any hope of emancipation. Of course, this all started well before 1970 for my elders, but I didn’t know that.

Today these questions are no longer pertinent. We know how public space has altered. Culture overall and its key players and venues, from newspapers to television shows and fashion, in short all the performance and advertising industries encourage a blending between art and society, and confuse the relationship between art and collective experience. And art is bankrupted when it lends itself to utilitarian and mercenary ends.

Global economics make it extraordinarily difficult to understand the world, and inhibit socially aware responses; social struggles have become corporate struggles. Insignificance is on the increase, as Cornelius Castoriadis wrote, and I will never be able to reverse that.

I am still convinced that art is a pillar to spiritual values and paradigms that offer no contrast to the productions of everyday life. These small paintings from 1976 with all their weighty baggage inaugurate the beginnings of my work as a painter. They are the surfaces on which my thoughts were inscribed, and in which I would elaborate my contract between the possible and the necessary.

* * *

Everything around us is matter, and everything is also representation. By using or making objects, we constantly swing from one register to another, from the functional to the imaginary. There is the well known example of a piece of wood highly regarded by a carpenter who wants to make it into a table, through to the various metamorphoses of its uses, from the furniture shop to the living room where spiritualists make it spin! On the other hand, people are who they are because they are the incarnation of imaginary significances, those of their society, their family and their era. They are these significances but eating, walking, working versions of them. The questions of what we long to escape from and how to make choices recur on a daily basis.

Being an artist means taking a strange stance: being produced oneself and, simultaneously, incarnating representation in a material. When all is said and done, this situation is like a form of chaos in which we try to find somewhere to stand instead of slinking back to bed. We all have to acknowledge that lying down means being no less on the edge of the abyss and has the added disadvantage of producing nothing tangible. Major and minor anxieties inhabit a body, and it is that body that gets up and goes to work. I can’t say it enough, painting is primarily physical work. Chaos, the indistinguishable and the unnamable give creation a chance because it overlays them with orderliness, a search for meaning. So identity is related to the verb to do rather than the verb to be. There are many moments of friction with the world, times when confidence collapses, and action is pointless. We need to go back to the reasons for believing and for acting. Chaos and the multiplicity of possibility lie in ambush right next to “what’s the point”, and meaning lies only in the activity of inventing a meaning.

Creation cannot be controlled because it creates discontinuity. It is evidence of a constant adapting of oneself, alone, pressured by outside circumstances and surprised by sensations; the self and the “non self” are endlessly redefined. As with immune systems, the self and foreign bodies are labile definitions, and identity is something that changes over the course of life’s different periods.

* * *

In 1976, I wanted to make paintings which could not be seen as “original inventions”; banal paintings that were not produced by some personal cosmogony. The general context of the paintings revolved around a discussion about monochromes. The principal artists were, of course, Yves Klein, Robert Ryman and Günter Umberg, and I found nothing to add to this exciting historical dialogue. In spite of everything, it engendered countless derivative paintings, sub-products that adhered to details and in which colour was basically the only visible difference. Perhaps influenced by Marshall McLuhan (“The medium is the message”), I had already rejected the idea of painting with only one colour, because I didn’t want my painting to activate a dimension associated with publicity, as Klein was striving to do, along the lines of: colour blue = Yves Klein; this “not choosing” struck me as a less demiurgic view of the work, if I can go that far, or at least a more humble one and, as far as I was concerned, I couldn’t see any other view. Of course that meant confronting other very complex problems ranging from the psychological values of colours to questions raised by the “decorative” element.

To my mind, some painters attributed a good deal of complacency to appearance whereas I, by contrast, was trying to explore the fundaments of the experience of painting. The solutions I revealed were given a mitigated, sometimes indifferent, critical reception and even, conversely, offered comfort to some reactionary-minded collectors. Perhaps it is difficult to understand the difference between the motivated and the arbitrary when a painting is viewed too quickly.

Thirty years later, I look at these paintings affectionately, because I realise that several other series that I went on to paint are not fundamentally different. The brushstrokes are wider or longer; in one instance they are replaced by crusts of dried paint cut from pots deliberately left open. I was increasingly conscious that it was important to count, to fill in and add up one thing after another, and I felt a need to do these paintings that did not replace the formula of the 1976 works. They exist with and in spite of me, like reworked screenplays informed by experiments carried out in the interim, and which I will discuss below.

* * *

There are plenty of clichés about artists’ lives that put the emphasis on the linear way in which they evolve; which does nothing to explain the process of invention. When I look back, I personally feel that my paintings as a whole are monotonous. But if I look at them chronologically, I notice my digressions and don’t always understand the coherence of my trajectory. Movements in what happens to the conscious mind are not always rationally logical. Sometimes inspiration takes the form of a new combination of things that were already there; sometimes it interrupts the process of rearrangement, and redistributes the work into new categories. Surely, controlling the future isn’t it the last great fantasy of humankind and ideologists? An artist should protect him or herself from the future, and remain open to the present with no fear of discontinuity, because everything dries up when subjected to habit and control. You have to be in a state that is close to who you are, or almost indeterminate, evolving to the whims of forces within you, waiting for signs from a thought that has no subject, and letting things come but, crucially, without judging or criticising them for fear of losing this openness; allowing the thought to do the constructing and to establish relationships so that things happen all by themselves. You have to set yourself apart from any form of intention and literally pick it apart.

I cannot tell in advance what a painting will be; I might be inundated with bad ideas before I know what it is I want, or I may feel empty. I have to put everything I already know to one side. When I catch sight of a possible lead, I don’t know if it’s the embryo of something that will be developed or just a flurry of excitement with no follow through. I have no ideas about the end result, I don’t follow any self-seeking strategy. I have to leave my thoughts to mature until the urge to move on to realising them becomes undeniable. Necessity does not let judgment stand in its way. Everything is ruined in wanting to finish it too quickly. There is, in some ways, an order and a disorder in which things can “take shape”. A time frame which without articulating the fact gathers up and condenses the pros of reasons and the cons of formal consequences. And this may well be the form it takes: a simultaneous conjunction of all these moments, of all these thoughts crystallised and fixed with an economic kind of organisation. When thoughts evolve, they adhere to this form and are incarnated in a material. It strikes me that there is a similarity between flow of conscious ideas in my mind and the breath of a painting in the process of being created. The origins of my paintings set the form for a movement in the material.

* * *

I am constantly preoccupied with redefining my work, and I try to make that redefinition as parsimonious as possible. Apart from these paintings from the early days of my work, I did not feel like embarking on long-term projects. The idea of filling a canvas with one long line or a single brushstroke struck me with the force of a major event. The contortions of a paintbrush that allow you to cover as much ground as possible are reminiscent of that paradoxical maximization of the first paintings. At first, I did three paintings that were like friezes (Greek ones) on a black background, then I found a way (being incapable of choosing) of reducing even further the number of possibilities by manipulating it so that the line returned to its point of departure. I used a flat brush, then wider varnishing brushes known as spalters, and I painted them in several colours: seven, I think. Next, I painted the canvas in one sweep, using this painted brush, without “reloading” it. Painting a brush in order to paint is not some stylistic flourish. It allowed me to paint a multicoloured stripe in one go, like with other paintings when I use both hands to hold ten brushes or more, each loaded with their own colour and the colours blend as I work my way across the canvas. If, for example, I paint the twenty-centimetre wide spalter with blue, red, black, green, yellow, mauve and ochre, I feel I have fulfilled my contract which is not to choose the colours. You could object by saying I have chosen that particular red rather than another. Wouldn’t it come down to the same thing? Swapping one polychromatic scheme for another is a question of taste or management, and has nothing to do with discussions about colour.

Ordinarily, the technique is invisible, except when it is clumsily executed; the materials should forgettable. The picture takes care of expression, the technique of the material. The word “repaint”, so characteristic of painting techniques, presupposes failure or a poor original concept in the way something is painted. It means that a collection of brushstrokes can be erased and altered, and the fact that the word exists demonstrates the legitimacy of this practice. The alteration is perceived as localised, as something static within the composition. It goes without saying that my work excludes any repainting because no single part of the painting is produced independently of the others, and also because if one area was not technically successful, then the value of the whole would disintegrate. Retouching one area would change the whole temporality of the work. Now, I don’t like changing direction; my work doesn’t imitate anything. My paintings are done in one move (alla prima) to inscribe them in a real space and in the place that they themselves define. I do a drawing which is rather like a circuit for the brush to follow; it snakes over the canvas, covering as much ground possible. It takes only a few minutes to execute the work, while the preparation requires several days. I could adopt as my own Allan Kaprow’s phrase that a “happening is a moral activity”. He was not, of course, talking about morality but about loyalty that an artistic event should display in its choices and gestures. I conceive a painting as an integral performance. It incorporates this integrity in its form. The “load” of paint is used up on the canvas right up to the point where the trace of loaded paint begins again. What remains is the trace of an act which shows its own end, ready to embark all over again. In it, we see its generation and its corruption, so that the whole is not devoid of any phase, even though its execution was within a limited time. I am struggling to find the words to describe a thought which respects this mobility.

Painting is physical work (a mechanical art), and I strive to make the most of its productive economy. The experimental plans coincide with the resulting image. The forms relate to the distribution of colours, and the concept of all these effects (consequences) is in fact the concept of the picture. I do not even know if there is a picture. There is simply an event which is recorded and all its rules indexed: a painting. The process itself, then, is not the aim and, although I have often said that you only have to look at it to know “how it’s done”, this is because there is no dressing-up to be seen, but simply an action, the action of revealing the order and the material qualities with which these sensory experiences are made. In this, I have found something implacably rigorous which could be repeated as many time as there are variations that fulfill the same pre-established conditions.

In 1999, I started experimenting with ways of producing paintings with more than one pair of hands. What I can state about this straight away is how impossible I found it tracing some figures on my own without removing the brush from the canvas, in other words without transforming a continuous brushstroke into an imitation of an “as if it were possible” gesture. Painting is a solitary activity in its concept but the physical work of it can be delegated. Many artists entrust this work to others and leave the realization of their work to the technically adept. They see the techniques of painting as a constraint serving the content and not as generating the meaning of the visual experience. When I asked other people to come and help me, I wanted my work to be invested with human and social energies. The collective nature of the intellectual and practical activity brings me closer to my preoccupations as a beginner. Paintings completed by several people are like knots or braids where the synchronicity between the contributors has to be regulated as if in a performance. Of course, I decide in advance what goal I am setting for us. Cooperation does not mean a kolkhoze. And yet the requirements are somehow above and beyond me during the creative process, they refer to the whole working community because our strengths and energies are so intricately connected, our gestures so synchronized. I have devised layouts which simply could not come into existence without indispensable contributions from other people. You could compare this necessity to work together with the situation in music or dance, but I am not sure this would be a fruitful comparison. The figures are topological, sometimes mathematical ones. They are not pictures. They are intersections, sequences in which one waits for the other, where a third might intervene before the second but after the first. The brushes never break contact with the canvas until the end of the pattern.

I have always wanted the constraints imposed by the rules to which I adhere to be visible, and for the way in which they are produced to constitute their exhibition. Painting is not a rebus puzzle, a painting’s meaning carries no message. For me it is never about reproducing something on canvas but rather to represent a relationship between a thought and an execution. My paintings are movements that carry with them their own finished form and the way in which they were made. If the paintings only demonstrated a process, then they would have failed in their goal. It would be gratuitous and vain simply to display the process, and would smack of an unfulfilled or even pointless relationship. I do not worry unduly about composition, different areas or the whole. There is nothing left to compose. (Who still wants to organize a world, who still wants a heroic role?) Seen in that light, my efforts to work collectively are an extension of what I started with my paintings of long lines towards a point still further away from myself, and they pave the way for my own obliteration (or final disappearance).

* * *

Tracing back through a process means following the sometimes erased traces of a pathway through individual brushstrokes, their movement, the fields of colour and the surface of the canvas. The pathway is never the aim of the walk but it has to be followed, like an initiation, in order to enjoy the view. Admittedly, a view is not a good example. The feelings afforded by a view are too simple to be compared to those engendered by a painting. Mind you, I do know paintings that present only the fact that they are there, pure aesthetic objects to be seen and in which no material is freighted with an idea. It is not enough to put colours on a canvas and look for tonal harmonies that would make a sunset blench with envy. If it exudes no sense of intention, if it does not communicate any structured thought to me, if I am confronted with a jumble of colors and objects but do not understand how to use them, then that is not enough for me. The insignificance of a work of art brings me straight back to capitalist acquisitiveness. What remains is a need to understand your actions, to question the reality of what you are making beyond the immediately obvious because that is how you succeed in doing more than merely affirming. Colors and shapes are accountable for a “purpose” that produces them. Without this purpose, what we see is empty of meaning or merely bland decoration, whether it be a figurative or abstract work.

The possibility of investigating the process by which a painting was made means we can get further with the process of understanding it in its entirety (heuristics). This retracing allows you to think through your motivations and marvel at your results. Surely we look at the works of Michelangelo, Goya or a contemporary artist in the same way? I co-produce works of art from the past when I look at them and bring them to life.

* * *

Does a work created in parts have a sense of “self”? With this in view, the different paintings of my work should be orientated towards a goal and should gradually reconstitute the magma of their origins. My failed paintings are as important as the successful ones; they open and close the same pathways. The work takes root in different magmas which evolve with passing time like my understanding of myself, of society, culture etc., which amounts to saying that, by representing the world around me, I am constructing the meaning I attribute to myself and the one I pass on to my work. This representation achieves a truth that is inexhaustible yet temporarily satisfied, with each successive painting.

Making your ideas communicable means detaching them from yourself. It also means representing (putting your work in a position to communicate with others) to share the pleasure and the amazement produced by painting. I like that sense of being lost for words, when you are lost in your thoughts with a feeling of fulfillment (of grace) and of belonging to something greater than yourself because this is to do with sharing. Art is the paradoxical result derived from the artist’s interior thoughts and a presentation of their result in a public place. When someone else looks, this localizes the act of deciphering a thought in the realm of vision, in other words they think for themselves and co-produce the work. A painting is an object hung on a wall waiting for people to come and activate it. It is, by definition, mute. It transfers difficulties of language as often as it remains an enigma. The enjoyment of a painting is addressed to the senses as much as the intelligence. A painting that cannot be looked at several times is disappointing. One that can be looked at several times affords a great deal of pleasure.


Berlin, August 2009


Examining Pictures, 2007

by Jens Hoffmann

Extracted from the catalogue: " Longues Lignes (souvent fermées)", 2007.

First of all. What do pictures consist of? What are they all about?

There is no end, in fact, to the number of different kinds of pictures.
Naturally artists from time to time have struggled to enlarge on these limitations and the history of art is a succession of their successes and failures. See the impressionists, the cubists.
John Baldessari’s Examining Pictures 1967-68

At first glance one might be forgiven for wondering what the connection might be between John Baldessari’s wittily insightful critique of the pedagogical language on how to make art (and in particular painting) and Bernard Frize’s apparent continuation of the project of abstraction. After exposure to more than a couple of works by Frize, however, one begins to suspect that beneath the undeniably beautiful chromatic surface a very different kind of order has been established. In fact Baldessari’s quotes, variations and one liners from ‘how to make art’ text books and art criticism of the day seem to suggest possible guidelines used by Frize in his idea-driven, serial work. “A Work with Only One Property,” “A Painting that is its Own Documentation,” “Pure Beauty,” and “Everything is Purged from this Painting But Art, No Ideas Have Entered this Work,” for example (all titles and texts from Baldessari’s works of the 1960s) seem entirely apt descriptions for many of Frize’s paintings which deliberately exclude the romantic language of painterly expression for the rules and regulations of what could be called “found painting.” Taking the bare essentials of his tools (brushes, canvas, paint), ready-made images or designs, and the assistance of collaborative help from others, Frize sets out to make work according to a pre-determined structure, albeit one that then allows for the happy intrusion of chance events. Paintings are produced in series according to the idea, pattern or rules Frize has established until the idea at hand has been exhausted or achieved to satisfaction.

Past series of works, for example, have consisted of paintings for which the artist has taken dried skins of paint that have formed at the top of an open can and placed them on the canvas surface, repeating the gesture until the pot was empty. Or, for example, the work which he painted blindfolded, following the instructions of someone else directing him variously to move the paintbrush right or left. Frize seems to delight in the process of inventing rules or structures to adhere to that will remove, as much as possible, the intrusion of choice or expression, relying only on material or external constraints. It seems, in fact, that even the chromatic brilliance of Frize’s work is a result of this effort to avoid decision-making — in particular in the loaded realm of colour association and its consequent implication of an emotive or aesthetic choice (red=anger, blue=calm). In particular Frize does not want the colours to be associated with brand or image (‘Frize green’ for example or a dated palette of 1970s muddy hues) and thus fairly randomly uses as many colours as possible. He has said that he tries “… to attain a neutrality. So that nothing dominates and you can never say which is the dominant colour.” A rainbow-like array is often the result of this process and, at the risk of irritating Frize, one might even say that this wide chromatic spectrum has become part of his signature, a ‘Frizean’ colour combination rather than a particular monochromatic identification.

Despite trying to establish a work-like neutrality (as opposed to artistic expressivity) in the process of painting (Frize has even gone so far as to suggest that anybody who pays careful attention ought to be able to make a painting like one of his) the effects of chance and technical facility play a major role in the outcome of the work. The intrusion (and embracing) of the random in Frize’s work relates again to early conceptual art and the significant influence of John Cage.

Within a prescribed action with a stated aim there is also room for the unexpected outcome, a chance event that is all the more noticeable for its occurrence within the set parameters. Frize himself has explained how it is only through a very careful process of ordering that chance can play its role. He says, somewhat self-effacingly about this element of chance in his work, “To use it you have to be very lazy. That is to say, you have to find very elaborate strategies so that chance can come in to it…I think in order to give chance its head you have to create the conditions for chance and that takes a long time. It’s a very complicated business, organising situations in which you do nothing and things will happen on their own.” Without structure, chance would simply be disorder, but it is within the tightly conceived rules of the game established by Frize that chance can then be recognised as such and thus take effect.

One way in which chance is allowed to manifest itself in Frize’s work is through his practice of making in the instant: he often produces work very quickly once the rules or game that will dictate the making of the series have been established. Frize has said of this practice that he often paints “… all in one go…it’s a little like a happening” and that “… to retouch is already to cheat.” But of the many canvases that are completed only one (or perhaps none at all) may be retained as a successful piece to be exhibited and retained. Presumably Frize will retain only those works that adhere to and realise the structure that was established at the outset of the painting event (or of course those where chance played a role in creating the unexpected but latterly desired effect).

Indeed this process of elimination and decreed failure in Frize’s structurally driven painting process suggests that part of the game that the artist sets out is to test his own technical ability or gamesmanship with each new series. Constantly thinking of new challenges (more complex games) with which to confront himself Frize confronts the limitations or accepted parameters in making art. The artist maintains that this process of the making of the work (the unconventional structure or method established for its production) always remains evident from the canvas — an idea that erroneously suggests an element of simplicity or didactic effect. But the deduction of the game by no means guarantees the ability to mimic it and the skilful manoeuvring of the single brushstroke used to create Aran, for example, is something quite beyond the ability of most painters. Presumably, for Frize, once the game or process conceived to make the work has been mastered, it is time to move on to a new challenge or a new idea, a process that also explains the artist’s relatively large output. One senses that in addition to testing his own limits he is also driven by a desire to avoid a sense of boredom from facility. He has said of Conducteur B, 2001, for example, a work for which he used a ridiculously impractical 40cm- wide brush, that it was “… very difficult to find the right moment when you need to turn the brush so that it will go exactly where it should without sticking out over the canvas or going over a stroke…it’s the result of material constraint.” The rules of the game are thus dictated in order that the skill required can be gained. Once attained (the perfect score achieved) its time to move on. It is interesting to consider in this scenario the amount of time spent devising the structure for the work as opposed to the immediacy of its realisation, the emphasis given to the idea or game.

It is not that surprising, given this apparent attraction to concepts, structure and in particular to games, to note that Frize frequently makes use of existing games in his work and titles. From the overlapping checkerboard of the Solitaire series to the remarkably floral effect of Pacifique (1991) which follows a pattern delineating how a knight can use all the squares on a chessboard, one is aware of the influence of games and patterns relating to games in the artist’s oeuvre. While solitaire is a game for just one player, Frize also delights in group gamesmanship and has on a number of occasions made series of works that require more than one person to work on one canvas at the same time. He has stated that the principle of these collaborative works is that “you pass on the brushes.” He continues, “… that is to say, I give you the brush and you give the brush to someone else, without losing contact with the canvas.” For the work Gabarit 1998 (a fishbone like structure), for example, there were three people at work at one moment.

The use of assistants in this way is of course also another means by which to remove the authorial touch and a path by which Frize can distance himself from the process of creation and any suggestion of artistic ‘genius,’ but the artist has also referred to the pleasure he takes in thinking of a process that will require multiple players or ‘hands’, as he calls them, suggesting that the interaction and potentially unexpected activity of the event is also very much part of its appeal.

Further aligning Frize with the attitudes and tendencies of conceptual art, a distancing from authorial statement and an affiliation with what Benjamin Buchloh has termed the ‘aesthetics of administration’ that characterise much of the work of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Frize, with the help of Patricia Falguieres, established a list or code for the categories of work that he has made. Ranging from the fairly straightforward point 98.3 in this list ‘Large’, to the more complex conditions reported in point 111.1 ‘The inversion of the motifs by the exchange of the qualities,’ Frize’s cataloguing of his work dryly implies a distanced assessment of the material and technical attributes, denying once again any suggestion of the significant presence of the ‘hand of the artist’ in the work’s realisation.

Frize’s most recent body of work Longues lignes (souvent fermées) (Long lines (often closed)) 2007, might fit category number 102.3 ‘Ready-made image’ or perhaps also 107.1 ‘The ground of the painting makes the ground’ (as opposed to 107.2 ‘The ground of the painting makes the image’). The image or pattern — a linear, convoluted path, appears to have been taken from a game of Sudoku perhaps or a humble crossword puzzle but the complex process of connection and overlap of the various painted lines suggests also the readymade form of a water piping system. Similarly the series Suite à onze could have derived from the serpentine loops of a maze or the pre-fabricated turns of a plumbing system. In particular Suite à Onze no10 and Suite à Onze no14 encourage the eye to play the children’s game of tracing a line to its goal and it is difficult to resist the tactile urge to run one’s finger along the variously coloured lines in order to follow their convoluted path. For Suite à Onze no13, the rules appear to have changed and the predominantly grey linear route is interspersed with colour, which appears only at the inner turning points of a particular design. Perhaps more than many other works by Frize (due in part to their fairly regular brush strokes and linear form) these pieces suggest the programmatic realisation of a task at hand, the realisation of an idea.

Having cited Baldessari at the outset of this essay it seems only appropriate to mention one of Baldessari’s own mentors, Sol LeWitt, in closing. LeWitt was an artist who evolved a working method for creating artworks based on simple directions, works that could be executed by others rather than the artist. The fertility of this approach is demonstrated by the aesthetic richness and variety of his wall drawings, none of which were drawn by him. In one of his extraordinarily prescient sentences on art, LeWitt set out the directives for Frize’s work,

“When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.”

Though Bernard Frize’s work is very much of its moment, it is perhaps most pertinent to think of it as realizing these seminal prescripts, continuing a tradition of painting for which the vision of the creator has been exorcised to the distant past.











The Reconstitution of Time Past

by Jordan Kantor


History is the subject of a structure whose site is not homogenous empty time, but time filled by the presence of the now.
–Walter Benjamin 1)

In a recent interview in these pages, French painter Bernard Frize reiterated a point he has made throughout the course of his career—a point that has been almost ritually repeated in the critical treatment of his oeuvre. Describing an aspect of the viewing experience he hopes his paintings occasion, Frize stated, “I want my traces to allow viewers to reconstitute what happened” 2). This idea that the artist’s “traces”—those material records of painterly process—allow their viewers to unravel the history of the work’s making, seems fairly straightforward. In many paintings, Frize isolates, even exaggerates, his painterly means to foreground the process of the images’ production. This is evidenced in a painting like the aptly-titled MADE (1986), where one can easily follow the methodical itinerary of pigment-loaded brushes, envisioning the way they once traveled through the artist’s favored ultra-glossy acrylic resin in sweeping horizontal bands. (The brushes start in the upper left corner, descend and traverse the canvas [left to right], only to change both direction and orientation in the lower right corner, and double back across in broad horizontal strokes.) While many of Frize’s commentators have attended to ways in which his paintings reveal their own materiality, less focus has been trained on another equally important dimension of his process-oriented practice: its temporality. 3) Indeed, as much as Frize’s paintings matter-of-factly assert the material means by which they are made, they also, specially, and specifically, register the time (+10) of such making.

Time has been a central and defining concern of Frize’s art since at least the eighties, when the artist devised a series of operations whose effects became inscribed directly within the materiality of his paintings. He executed a large body of work that incorporated the thin “skins” which form on the surface when containers of wet paint are exposed to air for long periods. SUITE SEGOND STRN30F100 (1980) was among the first of such works; it is made up of small discs of dried color the artist lifted from open cans of paint and collaged, wet-side-down, onto the canvas. Playfully riffing off classic modernist modes of self-revealing painterly materialism (like Pollock’s drips), Frize uses these bright circles of pastel solids to construct a self-conscious image of the time it takes for paint to dry. As simplistic as this idea might initially seem, the artist’s attempts to depict paint in the process of drying have proven surprisingly fruitful. SUITE N-B(1991), a series of six canvases from 1991, captures the effects of time on paint with similar means, but to very different pictorial ends. To make this work, Frize first poured black and white paint into a rectangular tray roughly the size of the eighteen by fifteen inch canvases. Leaving the mixture uncovered, the artist waited for a skin to form before peeling it from the tray and affixing it to the canvas. With the layer that had sealed the mixture having been removed, a new skin began to coagulate atop the remaining wet paint only to be itself peeled away, once solidified enough to cover the next canvas. Not only do the six works that comprise SUITE N-B reveal the considerable time required for this sequential operation; the lightening tonal progression in the cycle registers the slow, downward separation of the denser white pigments from the less dense black ones. That is, in addition to representing the time required for each new skin to dry (as the discs in SUITE SEGOND STRN30F100 also did), SUITE N-B’s marbleized surfaces bear witness to the slow procession of the heavy metals typically used to make white paint—titanium, zinc, and lead—as they settle to the bottom of the tray.

In a very different way, the nubby surfaces of SPUGNA (1993) and MARGARITA (1991) also present gravity’s tug on thick, wet paint. Like stalactites, the bumps that define the surfaces of these paintings formed when Frize suspended the wet canvases, allowing them to dry in positions horizontal, face-down, and parallel to the floor. 4)

Other of the works, instead of indexing the effects of time on paint, highlight the duration of the artist’s physical exertion in arriving at the image. As in MADE (described above), Frize typically creates the perception that little time (and hence little work) is required to fabricate these paintings. Indeed, the blithe gestural images for which he is best known usually seem to have been executed in a few short seconds, an appearance underscored in the titles of works paradigmatic in this regard: DASH (1995), RUSH (1995), HURRY, (1995), and SPEED (1995). While the artist has acknowledged that this quickness of execution is sometimes feigned (in fact, some have been painted more than ten times), the opposition of this type of work to the “slower” skin paintings demonstrates the methodical nature of Frize’s sustained commitment to investigating the various “times” of painting 5). That such paintings appear not to require much time, work, or special fabrication skills to be made, reveals the democratic impulse that runs through Frize’s practice. The artist has repeatedly stated that he wants his paintings to appear quick, easy, and part of the everyday world; he strives to make the painterly process appear as quotidian as spreading butter on a piece of toast, or as simple as putting tulips in a vase. 6) This demystification of the act of painting, what Hans-Ulrich Obrist has called the artist’s “taming of the demiurge,” is part of Frize’s larger artistic ambition to explore the liberating possibilities of art made manifest, in part, through the durational act of viewing.

Perhaps the most novel and important aspect of Frize’s art is the temporality implied for the viewer’s encounter with his individual works. Frize believes that his “traces” not only record past actions that have “happened,” but that they wait, pregnant, for future times to come—ready at any moment to trigger a durational “reconstitution” in the viewer’s mind. This two-pronged temporality—in which the artist’s time spent making (+10) is registered as a means to choreograph future time spent looking (+10)—is singular to Frize’s work. So too is his investigation of art’s durational aspects through painting, a medium conventionally understood to be still (at least compared to film and video). 7) Frize’s paintings are compelling not only because they register the time and work of the artist, but because they do so in ways that engineer a specifically durational viewing. For certain, all works of art—paintings included—require time to behold. But the deliberate, yet diverse manners in which Frize transparently embeds in his works the processes of their making, engineer a kind of durational untangling that is central to the artist’s program.

This untangling in real time, the “reconstitution” that Frize’s paintings occasion, demands a certain active “presentness” of its viewers that has deep political implications. 8) By entreating their viewers to look, to investigate the “history” of their manufacture, Frize’s works create a heightened viewer consciousness that parallels the literalist materialism of the artist’s painterly means. That is, if Frize’s matter-of-fact materialism reflects an agenda to disenchant painting (which I believe it does), this finds a perfect compliment in the literalist experience of real-time triggered by looking at one of these works. While it could be considered ironic to argue that such choreographed looking is liberating, the open-endedness which the works propose creates an experience more dialogical than proscriptive. This kind of viewing-encounter is entirely subjective, and fairly difficult to describe—a point Frize has himself conceded:

“There is no equivalence between painting and language, otherwise it would have been verbalized. It’s about a whole bundle of things that are conveyed in the actual experience of the painting. A painting is an incredible object: it’s flat, facing you, you stand facing it—I mean, it’s an incredible moment which catalyses emotions, unusual sensations. Whether one is looking at a monochrome canvas or a Rubens, one is always standing facing it, confronting it, activating one’s emotions and one’s intelligence. One is always in a dialogue with this object.” 9)

The dialogue Frize seeks between his paintings and their viewers is a direct consequence of the specific ways in which he conducts a dialogue with his own materials; it is a product of his materialism. So while the artist might imagine his pictures as “simply the outcome” of a “series of operations,” they are altogether more than just that in practice. 10) Frize’s paintings are taut springs of potential: waiting to discharge their energy through a productive, dialectical encounter with their viewers, even if that be at some future time.








Art and Industry

by Paul Mattick & Kate Siegel

Bernard Frize titled one of his most recent paintings Usine, or “factory.” This is in keeping with other titles in the series: Camera, Diamant, Maison; Frize has often played amusingly on the theme of finding a representational image in the most abstract works. Each of these paintings has at its center a shape that, looked at with narrowed eyes and a certain amount of imagination, could be seen as corresponding to its title. But we suspect that the factory has a special meaning for Frieze, as it has for artists of the past one hundred and fifty years, give or take.
Fundamental to the modern practice of art, as it has developed since the eighteenth century, is its contrast with the industrial mode of production (and distribution) that began to emerge at the same time. While capitalism harnessed, first, the cooperation of many hands in a divided labor process, and then the substitution of machinery for human labor to produce larger and larger quantities of objects, fine art emphasized individual hand-labor and more or less unique objects as its characteristic forms of production and product. This is why, when some artists after the First World War had the idea of modernizing art by bringing it into line with industrial culture, they employed such stratagems as anonymous finish, the use of industrial materials, the separation of conception and production (carried to an extreme in the Readymade) and the employment of techniques of mechanical reproduction to make multiples.

None of these efforts really succeeded, of course. For one thing, art was already modern. For another, its specifically modern meaning was located precisely in the difference of its objects and performances from those of “ordinary” or “everyday” life. Even the most rebellious practices, however determined to bridge the gap between art and life, inevitably gave way to “art,” the conventions and conditions of art and its difference.

Bernard Frize’s painting takes a unique approach to the question of its relationship to modern life. On the one hand, it makes no bones about its nature as art: what he makes, shows, and sells are (for the most part) paintings, made in a studio, shown in museums and galleries, each clearly recognizable as the work of Bernard Frize. On the other, he has developed a mode of production sharing key features of modern industry. For one thing, his process entails the separation of mental and manual labor. But because he is an artist, and not an engineer or a manual worker, Frize is able to perform both tasks. First he thinks up an idea that will generate a painting: in the series that includes Usine, each painting is a different version of the same knot (a concept mathematicians call isotopy). Once the plan is place, all he has to do is to follow it. Because Frize is both designer and maker, instead of working as part of a machine generating someone else’s profit, he controls the entire production process.
He can therefore realize the utopian promise of modern industry: “the right to be lazy,” in the words of Paul Lafargue, Karl Marx’s son-in-law. Henry Ford and others held out the promise that more efficient industrial manufacturing techniques would allow human beings greater leisure. Marx, however, pointed out the paradox that the mechanization of production, instead of freeing human beings from the burden of physical labor, led to exhausting workdays (alongside mass unemployment). Frize executes his strange projects as efficiently as possible: worker as well as boss, why would he make more work for himself?

In his quest for efficiency, laziness, or directness, Frize calls on nature as well as his own ingenuity, conjuring painting problems that take advantage of a natural law, such as gravity, or a physical property, such as how far a given amount of paint can extend across a surface. Speaking of this employment of natural forces to produce effects outside his own control, he has said, in a recent interview, “To use [chance] you must be very lazy. That is to say, you have to find very elaborate strategies so that chance can come into it … It’s a very complicated business, organizing situation in which you do nothing and things will happen on their own.” We might translate “chance” here more accurately as materiality, the substance of the paint, the surface of the painting. Rather than resisting materiality, he works with it. Instead of trying to control or dominate nature, he allows nature itself to become another set of hands.

Increasingly in recent years, Frize’s practice has also been distinctly modern in its collective character. Of course, almost all successful artists employ assistants for tasks ranging from stretching and preparing canvases to actually laying down paint following the artist’s directions. What is unusual about Frize’s work is that it visibly requires several people working together to make it. The assistants are not stand-ins for the artist, performing tedious tasks like varnishing the canvas, but work alongside him; nor are they there just to speed up production—many of his paintings could not be made by one person, no matter how hard or long he might work. The series of paintings recently shown in Paris, for instance, requires a minimum of four hands working simultaneously to lay down the lattice-knot pattern of lines that form the image.

Further complicating the rendering of simultaneity, each hand holds three brushes, so that each right-angle turn of the brush produces a changing pair of colors. That is, each line is actually three lines; the amount of time required to make them, however, is the same amount of time it would normally to take a single line. Process in a painting is usually a matter of tracing single, directional marks and gestures, and perhaps, in the case of someone like de Kooning, of thinking in terms of layers and erasures as well. Frize’s technique of simultaneous, synchronic making creates an image in about the time it takes to see them, thanks both to careful planning and to collective execution.
These works, fascinating in their complexity as well as beauty, are in this way reminiscent of baroque chamber music, with its typically unrehearsed semi-improvised filling out of a composed structure. Like the 18th century composer at the keyboard, Frize participates in making the work with equally important others, without disguising his particular role as author. But unlike such music, Frize’s work demands no professional skill from its practitioners. As he explains, “In the early days I used to work with painters, but now they’re people who make videos or something quite different. There is no specialization with me. I never use technical knowledge. There is nothing technical in what I do. So it’s not important.”

In this again, his artistic practice is like industrial labor; as many critics have noted since the 1960s, art increasingly participates in the same de-skilling of labor that characterizes industrial work. Frize’s painting differs from conceptual art in several important ways, however, not the least of which is that he essentially reskills himself and his assistants with strange new specialties, like making sharp angled turns while wielding enormous brushes. And it also differs, like much art, from industrial labor, in that it is not repetitive, not impersonal, not alienated. The new knot paintings dictate a very strict order, but one that is non-hierarchical: each line must pass over, but also under other lines. He manages to surpass the metaphor for democracy Clement Greenberg saw in all-over painting; Frize pictures a different kind of social relationship, in which individual figures are not blandly submerged in a larger social field, but cooperate in shifting relationships.

Frize’s paintings look as if they gave pleasure to the makers as well as to the eventual viewer; we imagine the excitement of collective activity, the thrill of concentration and coordination, riding the edge of the process until the painting (much like a photograph) “comes out”-- or doesn’t. Instead of proposing industrial products as models of modern art à la Duchamp, Frize demonstrates in his artistic practice what a different way of organizing production in general could look like.

“I try to do things that are ordinary,” Frize says, “that are everyday, that are very simple and that anyone could do. This is not always evident because painting is something extremely elaborate and sophisticated, something, what’s more, that refers back to a whole history of panting.” That history, for the last 200 years, has inextricably involved the paradox of the glorification of a few handmade objects in a world of mass production; of the elevation of certain individuals—artists or captains of industry—in a mass society; of the accumulation of history in a culture constantly destroying the past. Bernard Frize denies neither side of the paradox, accepting it as the way in which art is already part of life. Instead of seeking to close an imaginary gap, he has found a way to see and show history in the everyday, the sophisticated in something anyone could do—to reveal the utopian future promised by industrial culture in works that are free, lovely, and there to be enjoyed today.


How To Make Decisions

by Suzanne Hudson


“I am constantly busy with interrogations like: how to make decisions, how many should I need, are they visible enough? Questions concerning the arbitrary and why for . . . this is what the studio work is about.” – Bernard Frize

*

In early 1962 Andy Warhol painted seven paintings based on dances popularized sometime before. Instead of depicting figures in motion, he rendered schematic the steps and the relationship of their combination. Called the Dance Diagram works, the canvases are crisscrossed with lines and arrows, and stamped with footprints. As pictures appropriated from popular dance manuals, the pieces function as veritable how-to guides capable of teaching the Lindy or Fox Trot, but they additionally, and perhaps more significantly, admit their fluent performance as learned, bodily process. In this way, their subject becomes homologous with their manufacture, a series of moves undertaken to get the impression on the support. So much painting in the decades since has similarly—if more or less explicitly at the level of the image—involved the recapitulation of how it was made. The “how-to” then, becomes an issue of painting directly. Yet as in the case of Bernard Frize, the point is not to recapitulate the result through some participatory form of spectatorship—for viewers to literally make a similar composition after seeing an example of one having already been done—but to understand the procedural means by which it was achieved.

In some fundamental way, this orientation undercuts the pretense to mastery endemic in so much post-war abstract painting, even or especially when that mastery was signaled by the seemingly spontaneous. Deskilling, for which Jackson Pollock’s thrown paint is paradigmatic, is still predicated on choice and even control—take Pollock’s own riposte to a misbegotten critic, “No chaos, damn it,” an affirmation of the intention and technical knowledge that underpinned his seemingly aleatory drip. Regardless of the a-compositional strategy, and the means used to achieve it, the Sisyphean nature of the act remains; efforts to undo composition usually deliver it anew, with exigencies recuperated as pictorial effect. Frize assumes this. Thus instead of arriving at the aesthetic by means of inadvertent or otherwise unforeseen channels, his paintings are carefully considered. That said, chance collaborates in the final outcome, however insistent he is on material constraints and conceptual safeguards against expression. (Terry Meyers has quipped that the paintings are the “sum of 100 percent offhandedness and 100 percent calculation.”) While there are one-off paintings without further occurrence, most are executed in series comprised of variations within certain parameters—standardized sizes or particular tools (e.g., a roller or a jerry-rigged bundle of different-sized brushes tied together) to be utilized—erected at the outset and explored until Frize feels the idea to have been satisfied by the results it has yielded. In his words, he paints in a series “in order to find their exit, their possibility of exhaustion, which leads to new works.”

This means that individual iterations become ever more meaningful in relation to the larger set out of which they have come to singular form as but one possible way of organizing a given pattern or complying with a specified rule. Frize, for example, has fished dried skins of paint out of open cans and applied them to the canvas surface until the vessel was empty. In 1999 he started experimenting with working with others. Working with a team among whom he divides the tasks necessary to complete an envisaged motif in an integrated choreography of divided labor has meant that Frize invests an often-solitary activity with sociability that is fundamentally constitutive. In establishing the goals for a painting’s realization, Frize considers them relative to the “whole working community because our strengths and energies are so intricately connected, our gestures so synchronized. I have devised layouts which simply could not come into existence without indispensable contributions from other people.” Frize emphasizes that this work, something “like a scenography to produce knots (either mathematical or not), braids, and sequences,” owes to his pragmatic need for “more hands” with which to guide the paths of paintbrushes bundled together across a thick, smooth layer of resin, leaving in their wake a prismatic, interlocking design of chromatic intensity, especially against the blinding white grounds.

To do this, he passes brushes without their losing contact with the canvas. Frize’s one-stroke paintings preserve their genesis, or evidence as to the methods of their becoming. David Barrett wonderfully described this transparency: It is “impossible not to imagine the process happening in real time—we picture the brush right there before us, with its excruciating snail’s pace and ever-paler rainbow trail.” These paintings in particular owe much to the eighteenth-century Swiss mathematician, Leonard Euler, and his modeling via the bridges of Königsberg as a problem of logic: how could the city be crossed, using each of the seven bridges without repeating the passage across any one”? We are given to understand the rules of the game, and we are witness to its termination after each round, but we are privy to nothing in between. Admitting to—even seeming to relish—the difficulty in reconstructing the exact order through which they came to appear the way that they do, these paintings nonetheless hold out the promise of an intelligibility that is nowhere assured.

In 2003 Jean-Pierre Criqui wrote: “There is, in Frize, a sort of iconography of operations that allows one to retrace the istoria of a painting—and doing so is as crucial to understanding a Frize as identifying characters and scenes is to comprehending a classical painting.” The question is whether this is still possible, and whether Frize intends it to be. How many decisions does Frize need, and how visible can (or should) they remain? Does the abstract if laboring body, a body—or bodies—so present in the gorgeous choreography of marks, come to the foreground as well? Does it disrupt or better help us to understand the need for sovereignty and the fantasy that it feeds? Does Frize, in this “sort of iconography” ask us to look at a figurative painting even as we face an abstraction? Might this recourse to the body return us to the artist as instigator, as the process, however determined from the outset and governed along the way, need start somewhere, and be legitimated by someone? Is adjudicating the answer to any part of this tantamount to registering a why, as well as that primary how? Judging by a recent comment, Frize relishes the maintenance of process as subject, something in fact abetted by this inability on the part of the viewer to wholly follow idea through execution, and hold off on positing conclusions to any of the above. As he puts it: “I like paintings that I can look at several times, paintings which are tying inseparably ideas to their fabrication so closely that they look like haiku or something absurd. . . . I don’t like paintings like monologues or demonstration of power. I like invitations.”


BERNARD FRIZE TODAY

by Jean-Pierre Criqui



“You are interested in space? Make it crack.
You are tormented by time? Let’s kill it together.”
Samuel Beckett, Le monde et le pantalon


For some time, this text was called – in my head – “The Master Frize.” A way to relate it to an earlier essay, “The Mottled Frize” (included in this book), whose title echoed, though less directly, one by Jean Paulhan. “I would be at a loss to decide whether Braque is the most inventive or the most diverse artist of our time. But if the greatest painter is the one who gives to the art both the newest and the most fertile idea, then without hesitation I choose Braque as the master,” wrote Paulhan. Mutatis mutandis (changing only that which is necessary), I willingly adopt the same point of view towards Bernard Frize. Certainly, the art world has grown since the time of the words quoted above and the number of candidates for the vocation or profession of artist has considerably increased. The fact remains that, given the recent history of painting, Frize's work today appears to me as singular as it is exemplary, and it is only the desire to avoid any suggestion, in this case unfounded, of any preoccupation with Paulhan's criticism that led me to drop the original title.
Where is this work now in the fall of 2014, after nearly four decades of uninterrupted painting? A first essential observation: while regularly revisiting various moments of his past practice, Frize has never stopped exploring new concepts, inventing novel ways to paint (starting with the development, 10 years ago, of processes based on the creation of one painting by multiple people simultaneously), but he has also, since the mid-1990s, abandoned all recourse to what we summarize as “figurative art,” namely the representation of real and identifiable objects or images. It is only by accident or allusion, and by a natural predisposition of our vision, that we perceive this or that painting as evoking a stone, a curtain or a bookshelf. So much so that this action of expansion that first strikes us corresponds to another, of reduction or of disconnection. The paradox is far-reaching and leads immediately to the Frize's conception of painting since the beginning, which is to constitute it of an ensemble of paradoxes, in other words of propositions contrary to common sense and expectation. Of course, the principle applies at the level of each work considered individually: “I always try to get to the point where there is not just one thing in the painting, one thing shown, but that there is a paradox, an antagonism, a difficulty in the work.”
Like the trajectory of history according to Vico, Frize circles back to his own antecedents, revisiting and revising them. Thus two magnificent recent paintings, Ploria (2013) and Mascile (2014), explore anew the modus operandi already developed in 1988 for the vast painting on the ceiling of an exhibition room for his show “De là ces innombrables noms,” at the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris. The gesture is that of a relay, which in a way surpasses and, in any case, displaces the preceding process. Among many other examples, the movement is similar with 71% Vrai 22% Faux (2005), which retraces a path pioneered in the mid 1980s in similarly named works, where the addition of percentages does not fail to plunge the viewer into preposterous questions ("7% of what?"). Along the path of these elliptical returns, there arises, as in the three paintings just mentioned, an uncompromising optical splendor. This beauty, if we are to believe the artist, is purely accidental: “I have nothing against beauty – but it is not the goal. I never think about it. Beauty is often associated with colors and I really make sure that the colors are not solicited. They say: 'I am different from the others' before being beautiful. Moreover, they are not beautiful. It's just colors: two blue, two red, two yellow and two brown.” In the same vein, searching for beauty would be to damn himself never to find it and Frize prefers to rely on the laws of chance, the encounters with fortune. Commenting on his Suite au rouleau (1993), an important group of eight paintings of identical format (190 x 150 cm), he describes without hesitation, and characteristically of his aesthetic, the principle behind their execution: “I used rollers with long piles that give a “rabbit fur” texture. As far as I can recall, since this was all a long while ago, there were five rollers, each with a different color. The colors, like always, were painted on a background of fresh resin and the superposition of their strokes corresponded to a division of the surface into five zones, with each painting starting by shifting the first zone to be painted in a clockwise direction. It was ultimately rather complicated in terms of 'over and under.' Each stroke reveals or augments the preceding ones as it covers them. For me, they are like knots: everything is flat, but everything ties together in an illusory relationship, as it were.” To his interlocutor's observation that all this is not without a certain discordant quality, his subject replies bluntly: “It's ugly, sure.” But most remarkable is this provisional conclusion (albeit with general relevance): “There is no harmony, just a construction. It's an idiotic painting, actually, it's absolutely absurd. That's why I said that it was an ordinary thing. It is hardly artistic.” Somewhere, Picabia smiles in approval.
The notion of the appropriateness of means and ends is constantly challenged in the work of Frize, who positions himself as the antithesis of the rational, “technological” artist, always striving for increased efficiency. In stark contrast, his bent tilts towards contrariety, in the sense of a left-handed person forced to write with their right hand, and obstacles, which are clearly gratifying to overcome. Hence the legend – the word fits – of the 40 centimeter brush: “It is 40 centimeters and so to paint without running over the edge of the canvas [speaking here of a painting from 2001, Conducteur B], I have to twist it, to force it, to contort it to manage to paint it all. It's very difficult to find the right moment to turn the brush so it paints exactly without surpassing the canvas or going back over a line and that it fills everything. That's all there is. I mean that there is no expression... at all. It is the result of a material constraint.” (Delacroix, another painter attentive to the methods of production, noted in his diary on July 20, 1824: "The great business is to avoid this infernal contrivance, the brush.") In order to succeed in his painting and surprise his viewer, the artist must begin by surprising himself in diverting the tools he uses from their usual and logical purposes, and in imposing upon himself rules which he knows will lead to deviations, or even errors, when followed. It is said that the pianist Thelonius Monk, while he played a melody during a recording session, interrupted himself suddenly to declare “I made the wrong mistake.” The same heuristic value of errors prevails with Frize, for whom the key is to cultivate a tension between the execution of a plan and the unexpected or improvised element that accompanies it (and for which the plan exists). It follows that all errors are not created equal: we must make mistakes, but well.
Frize's paintings, as we have pointed out, often arouse in their viewer the sense of a “near image.” So it is with those that appear to scroll vertically, where parallel bands of colored rectangles that link together by merging their borders are evocative of melting cinematic film, of a series of frames dissolving (see for example Cinquante Six. Un and Cinquante Six. Deux, 1996). The same process, but without the bands, sometimes unifies the entire surface with a scrolling effect, such as in Deli (2013), which slides before our eyes like an object we cannot grasp. Similar effects of speed, which leave the viewer hypnotized, are frequent and liken the painting to a Zen aphorism, a kind of visual haiku – a thunderbolt of a proposition, in which “speed” turns back on itself to set loose a game of echoes, of resonances, that expand temporal perception. In keeping with the literary analogy, we may also consider a writer like Olivier Cadiot, who employs an entire range of verbal accelerations and controlled skids with virtuosity. A painting is a halt, that engages us with what Roger de Piles, citing Rubens as the ideal in his The Principle of Painting (1708), called his “integrality,” his “effect at first glance.” Frize aims for this immediacy, this force of impact, while attempting to associate with it a sense of trajectory that preserves, at least in part, the procedural narrative held in suspension by the surface. The method of execution that he favors, acrylic in fresh resin, is of course an inherent aspect of this quest, each painting presenting itself for viewing like a snapshot – perfectly smooth, quasi immaterial. Paravent (2010), a large CinemaScope format canvas which suggests a dialogue with Christopher Wool, exponentially expands our sense of a painting as a unitary block by transforming, in the guise of a net, the grid that frequently furnishes the artist with a point of structural departure (it is, if you will, his 12-bar blues). Weft and warp intersect, undo and reconnect at will in Frize's work, with the blur itself (see Oma, 2007) seeming at times to be inspired by textiles, if we consider the painter's interest in ikats: “They come from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan. You find them in Turkey. They are woven, unwoven and rewoven simply so that the motifs are shifted and become blurred. The first time I saw one, it was in a black and white photo of an interior. There was this fabric on the table and it was the only blurry part of the photo. I understood that it was an ikat.” In some cases, a form of paramnesia prevails and prompts us to construct the hypothesis of an original motif quite far from the one which motivated what we are looking at: in 2001, Frize painted an ensemble of pieces with vaguely extraterrestrial titles (Remoon, Udotée, Bogor, etc.), which evoke corals, groups of stick insects or networks of vegetation, but which find their inspiration, reworked until unrecognizable, in city maps. Approximate, subliminal, hallucinatory, fictitious images, which, when we turn around to look anew at our day-to-day surroundings, change us in turn into “critics of reality.”
"I try to make paintings that one can look at at least twice. I would also say that I try as much as possible to articulate the processes amongst themselves, to recycle the remains of one series for the benefit of another. The monochrome that is drying over there is an example: at one point I put a canvas beneath it so that the drops that fall from it provide me with the beginning of another painting.” These words, spoken by Frize more than 20 years ago, have just as much pertinence today. Since then his work has continued to grow using the same autodidactic method. Considering the many avenues he has explored, one of the questions he certainly now faces is that of a renewed, deliberate use of distinctly figurative motifs. In an interview published in Artforum, he remarked on this point: "The figurative pieces I have made – I mean the paintings in the strict sense, putting aside the few photographs or scanachromes I have also happened to show – seem to me more ambiguous than the others; the images are a kind of primary material that I use without preoccupying myself with their point of reference. Or they play with the idea of a hidden figuration, a double meaning. Anyway, I have never invented an image, I can only borrow it to serve as the demonstration of pictorial composition. When I painted pots, it was to work on the idea of 'failure,' to accentuate with the image this exploitation of the accident I happened upon. It was about showing in the clearest possible way a sort of general inadequacy, the fact that nothing 'belonged' in these paintings.” That there is still much to invent from such a conception of the image is more than likely, especially if one takes into account the way in which all sorts of illicit figurations haunt numerous paintings of Frize's that can rightly be called “abstract.” In the course of his entire body of work, the logic would be that of an expansion of figurative exploration, through a revitalization of "pictorial intelligence."