Jean-Baptiste Maitre: Galerie Martin Van Zomeren

By Verzotti, Giorgio | Artforum International, September 2011 | Go to article overview

Jean-Baptiste Maitre: Galerie Martin Van Zomeren


Verzotti, Giorgio, Artforum International


A young French artist based in Amsterdam, Jean-Baptiste Maitre is engaged in a project that might be described as the deconstruction of the modernist text. Not Necessarily Words, 2010, the work that gives his solo show its title, appeared, at first glance, to be a piece of writing in yellow neon, inexplicably turned off; then one realized that it was a skillfully molded ceramic bas-relief. The artist told me that his intention is to compare the manual nature of a traditional artistic process with the industrial techniques that were introduced into art by avant-garde practices in the 1970s.

Another work, Plywood as Media, 2008, is composed of several planks resting against the wall--or at least so it seems. Here too, however, there is a mimetic play with materials, in this case slabs of plaster on which the artist has silk-screened an image that suggests the texture of plywood. What you see, in these works, is never what you get; Maitre overturns the very presuppositions on which his art appears to be based, and he inserts himself, as it were, into a genealogy--albeit one that he simultaneously critiques.

Maitre's interest in art of the past pushes him to outright citation, and yet he avails himself of it obliquely, in order to reveal that the object of his interest, more than works, artists, or movements, is instead the ways in which artistic production is contextualized by the media that present, comment on, and disseminate it. His subject, that is to say, is less the ontological status of the work of art than the ideological system that creates and legitimizes it. …

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