The virtuoso draughtsman of the time
About the exhibition "Jérôme Zonder. Joyeuse apocalypse" at the Casino Luxembourg-Forum d'art contemporain until 7 January 2024.
The good thing about Jérôme Zonder is that if you've ever seen one of his exhibitions, you're bound to remember him. It's not every day that you get inside someone's head... As Amélie Adamo, a journalist with the art magazine L'Oeil, wrote in her October issue, devoting a portrait to the artist, "his abundant and immersive universe, which proliferates in real space in installation mode, is an uppercut for the retina". The Fatum exhibition at the Maison rouge - Fondation Antoine-de-Gabert in Paris in 2015 struck enough chords with prestigious retinas for Jérôme Zonder to carve out a special place for himself on the contemporary art market: the artist has been represented by the Galerie d'art Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels, since 2016. The gallery owner even spoke of a "shock" on discovering this "great artist with a creative power and high standards that are out of the ordinary for his age". Born in 1974, Jérôme Zonder has in fact gone against the grain of most contemporary artists' race towards technological performance. His hand, a pencil and black graphite powder are all he needs to create works of art that are certainly for sale, but above all they are living works of art. And a thought in perpetual motion.
Back in 2000, the cartoonist devised a narrative framework to tell the story of human life around three fictional characters, like allegories of our times: Garance, Pierre-François and Baptiste have become the children of the century. These names were chosen by Jérôme Zonder in reference to Marcel Carné's famous film Les Enfants du paradis. The artist makes the three children grow old over the course of his works of art, gravitating around them a multitude of motifs taken from archive documents as well as newsreel images or borrowings from the worlds of cinema, comic strips, science fiction... An incredible formal experiment to tell the story of the human adventure, which the artist has been developing since his beginnings.
Jérôme Zonder graduated from the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris in 2001, and for over twenty years has been developing a virtuoso body of work centred on the constantly reinvented practice of drawing. The variations in scale of his works - produced mainly in graphite and charcoal - generate a play of movement in space: visitors wander spatially and mentally through the intricacies of an extremely lively polygraphic system. In his work, references to Albrecht Dürer, Robert Crumb, Rembrandt, Charles Burns, Otto Dix and Walt Disney come together to compose narratives with heterogeneous, sometimes cruel themes: "The narrative brings us into the drawing, the body alone keeps us on the surface. For me, drawing means constantly being between distance and proximity, figuration and abstraction, attraction and repulsion", writes the artist. The singularity of his narrative, historical and sociological approach, combined with his technical mastery, make Jérôme Zonder one of the most interesting artists of his generation. "He is quite simply the best draughtsman of his generation, and one of the greatest draughtsmen of all time", says Yannick Mercoyrol, Director of Cultural Programming at the Château de Chambord.
As well as taking part in numerous group exhibitions, including Le Massacre des Innocents: Poussin, Picasso, Bacon at the Musée Condé curated by Laurent Le Bon and Pierre Rosenberg (2017, Chantilly, France), Guernica at the Musée Picasso Paris (Paris, France, 2018), Quel amour !? at the Musée d'Art Contemporain de Marseille (France, 2018) and at the Musée Berardo (Lisbon, Portugal, 2019), Déflagrations - Dessins d'enfants et violences de masse at the MUCEM (Marseille, France, 2021), La Beauté du Diable at the FRAC Franche-Comté (Besançon, France, 2022) and at the MO.CO. in Montpellier (France, 2023), Jérôme Zonder's work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions as acclaimed as Fatum. These include Au Village at Lieu unique (Nantes, France, 2014), The Dancing Room at Musée Tinguely (Basel, Switzerland, 2017), Devenir traces bringing together more than 130 works in the historic spaces at Château de Chambord (Chambord, France, 2018) and Jérôme Zonder, Portraits at École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris (France, 2019).
From 7 October until 7 January 2024, a magnificent solo exhibition is dedicated to him at the Forum d'art contemporain du Casino Luxembourg. In Luxembourg, that is. A sort of "great Dionysian feast, delirious and disproportionate, where everything coexists, struggles and dialogues. Content and form, narrative and material", as L'Oeil's journalist describes it. So you've got it: it's a great opportunity to take in the sights in Luxembourg. And a unique one. Because, apart from the presentation of a large wall of drawings begun two years ago, the Luxembourg exhibition Joyeuse Apocalypse! was specifically designed and produced by the artist for the spaces on the first floor of Casino Luxembourg. Seduced and inspired by the architecture of this former party venue, and the specificity of the exhibition rooms, Jérôme Zonder set about designing an immersive journey of biting irony, conceived as a dance of circular movement. Comprising illustrations on paper, site-specific drawings and sculptural works, Joyeuse Apocalypse! plunges visitors into a polygraphic black-and-white environment with multiple references, where popular culture, topical images and political and sociological subjects come together. Giant game of goose, anamorphoses, hamster wheel, beauty, ugliness, good, evil, life, death... "All the great Zonder is here. All the great Zonder is here, deployed with a radically hallucinatory power and excess," says Amélie Amado. And we share her enthusiasm.
But don't panic if we've enticed you and you can't go and discover Jérôme Zonder in Luxembourg between now and January. It's a shame, of course, but his works of art will also be on show next year at the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme, in Paris, from June to October.
Jérôme Zonder's works of art also feature in numerous international collections, including those of the Istanbul Modern Museum in Turkey, the Musée Jenisch in Vevey, the Musée des beaux-arts in Le Locle and the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire de Neuchâtel in Switzerland, and the Fonds Municipal d'Art Contemporain in Paris, Les Abattoirs, Musée - FRAC Occitanie, Toulouse, FRAC Picardie, Amiens, FRAC Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Musée National de l'histoire de l'immigration, Collection Antoine de Galbert, Fondation Emerige, Collection Laurent Dumas and Collection Florence et Daniel Guerlain, Paris.
Enjoy your trip!
Article written by Valibri en Roulotte
Illustration: Jérôme Zonder, Joyeuse Apocalypse, exhibition view. Casino Luxembourg - Forum d'art contemporain, 2023