Paul-Armand Gette

By Dagbert, Anne | Artforum International, November 1993 | Go to article overview
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Paul-Armand Gette


Dagbert, Anne, Artforum International


I am tempted to conflate two of Paul-Armand Gette's phrases: "On exoticism as banality" and "On eroticism as banality," to characterize his work as "eroticism as exoticism." The first of his phrases refers to the discovery of the multitude of exotic plants that grow alongside urban avenues; the second deplores the banality of eroticism in advertising. Gette's work is far removed from this banality: its eroticism is one of the edge--of situations outside the norm which may appear exotic.

For some time, Gette has associated his love of plants and of nature with his love for women and young girls, those nymphs who haunt wood, gardens, and the seaside, as well as more private places such as dressing rooms and bathrooms. As both entomologist and botanist, Gette started photographing young women in natural settings in 1970, in works that suggest a link between the mutability of landscape and natural elements, and the latent metamorphoses of prepubescent bodies. He is especially interested in the notion of the edge, the fragile borderline between two domains, and by extension, the mixture of genres. The contact of the nymphettes' skin and their clothes evokes those intimate limits that Lolita's lover does not recognize as taboo. While apparently discreet, Gette's photographs of little girls with hiked-up skirts, seated in boats on a lake, do allow a glimpse of the suggestive edges of their underpants.

The first part of the exhibition, entitled "La vue et le toucher" (The look and the touch), retraces Gette's seductions/relations with his models, exciting the imagination more than they shock the eye.

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