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Hervé Di Rosa, the ferryman of worlds
herve-di-rosa-le-passeur-de-mondes - ARTACTIF
July 2024 | Reading time: 22 Min | 0 Comment(s)

About the exhibition “Hervé Di Rosa – Le passe-mondes” visible until August 26 at the Center Pompidou in Paris.

Perhaps you already know the story of the little girl who made the wrong word when confiding to her mother, when they had just visited an exhibition by Hervé Di Rosa, that she would very much like to come back and see “these works of modest art”, meaning “modern”. And who, despite herself, gave the Sète artist the brilliant idea of qualifying her art in this way, and of founding Miam in her hometown in 2000: the International Museum of Arts Modestes. As I never tire of it, I just told you about it anyway, after enjoying the article by Judicaël Lavrador in the May issue of Beaux Arts Magazine, devoted to the retrospective “Hervé Di Rosa – The pas-mondes”. A must-see exhibition until August 26 at the Center Pompidou in Paris. An exhibition which really makes you want to rush to Sète to visit, if you haven't already done so, this famous Miam that Di Rosa created with the artist and collector from Montpellier Bernard Belluc, and which has made a name for itself. specialty of little or no explored, popular or marginal practices. When I think that one day I left my trailer in Sète without going to look… it annoys me so much! In short, I swear, I won't miss Miam on my next trip to the South.

So obviously, today we can say that sowing mischievous characters in canvases splashed with bright colors, showing Goldorak or Pacman and taking inspiration from comics is not particularly marginal. But Hervé Di Rosa is 64 years old. And this is the first time that the Center Pompidou has unfurled its picture rails. That’s how it was in the 1980s! And if one had to be a visionary to buy works of art “with insolent exuberance, lulled by the furious aesthetic of the comic book magazines he gorges on (Echo of the Savanes, Fluide Glacial or Métal Hurlant) as well as strident echoes (although already muffled at the time) of punk music and underground rock. Were these really works of art anyway? Everyone was asking the question about the contemporary art market as the step aside could be shocking.

As Judicaël Lavrador reminds us, “he is not the only one in this”. Richard Di Rosa, his brother, but also Rémi Blanchard, François Boisrond, Louis Jammes, Robert Combas, the Parisian collective of the Ripoulin Brothers, Pierre Huyghe (under the pseudo PiroKao), Nina Childress… all of them at the time chose this step of side. The standing gap. The iconographic breeding ground of science fiction and cartoon superheroes. “Without ignoring, as the journalist from Beaux Arts Magazine points out, that this means taking the risk of being poorly received by the tight-assed people of fine art.” This group creates so freely, as far from the gold of academic painting as from the dissident veins dug by the avant-gardes of the 20th century, that Ben baptized it in 1981 “Free Figuration”. Free to question the very essence of art. Free to divide to express oneself artistically without bowing to the laws of the market. Or on the contrary to play with it with feigned humility to better divert the profits? The debate remains unresolved. Whatever the case, the term therefore establishes an artistic movement, based on the idea of the spontaneity of creation, and on a conception according to which artistic practice can be accessible to everyone.

Modesty has become the key word of the art practiced by Hervé Di Rosa. Who even pretended to be worried in 1982: “And if one day they noticed the deception, what would happen to me? I shudder with horror at the idea. Yes, what if one day they learn that it’s not painting but comics? »

By founding Miam, the artist had to somewhat circumscribe what he meant by modest arts. It will be “the art of sandcastles, that of playing cards, scale models, miniatures, customs, tags, dioramas, fanzines…” I actually have the impression that we could all pride themselves on being modest artists, ultimately. Especially if we have the innate reflex to poeticize life. In any case, this sort of Prévert-style inventory testifies to at least one thing: Hervé Di Rosa’s curiosity is insatiable. Inexhaustible. This is what makes him so likeable to me, in addition to his friendliness mixed with a Southern accent. This summer, Miam is putting commercial painting in the spotlight. The one that is produced to “be shown and sold in supermarkets, tourist areas and in the media”, explains Jean-Baptiste Carobolante, curator of the BEAUBADUGLY exhibition, to be seen from June 27 to March 10, 2025. So make way for commercial art and its bad reputation, to Margaret Keane's Big Eyes or Michel Thomas's Petits Poulbots. And why not ?

What also makes me like Hervé Di Rosa, what makes me want to be interested in his artistic approach, to get attached to it and to believe in his sincerity, even if I don't like Goldorak and don't read a strip drawn, it is also the fact that he questions himself. That he refused the purr into which he could have settled as soon as his works of art for sale attracted enough attention to ensure commercial success. The art galleries have in fact not shunned it. “From the end of the 1980s, the wanton style of his painting, overpopulated with hectic creatures, enriched to the point of obesity with a palette firing on all cylinders, seemed to him threatened by ease,” notes Judicaël Lavrador. “He knows how to do it, do it too well. From then on, struck by the discovery of Jean-Hubert Martin's seminal exhibition, Magiciens de la terre (at the Center Pompidou and the Grande Halle de la Villette), which reveals non-Western artists, forms, to do, ways of thinking that come from elsewhere and decenter art, Di Rosa sets sail, without abandoning the forms of his “Diromythology”. He takes them with him “Around the World”, the title of this long-term project that he initiated in the early 1990s and whose stages are retraced in the Center Pompidou exhibition, “Le passe-mondes”. It’s about taking your art on a journey. »

Because Hervé Di Rosa doesn't travel to go somewhere. He creates works on site using local cultures and modes of expression which have taken him to Tunisia, Bulgaria, Ghana, Benin, Ethiopia, Vietnam, South Africa, Corsica, Cuba, in Mexico, the United States, Cameroon, Israel... So he paints icons in Sofia, signs in Kumasi, trees of life in Mexico or azulejos in Lisbon, where he now spends most of his time .

Without claiming a particular style, without claiming anything at all, Hervé Di Rosa develops a narrative universe of his own and in constant evolution, populated by recurring characters, ultimately practicing all the creative techniques: painting, sculpture, tape drawn, tapestry, print, fresco, lacquer, embossed silver, ceramic, cartoon, digital images... Curiosity when you hold us! Considering the most recent paintings that punctuate the Pompidou exhibition, we could even say that immateriality is rearing its ugly head... Hervé Di Rosa definitely has the whole future ahead of him.


Valibri en RoulotteArticle written by Valibri in Roulotte

Illustration: Hervé Di Rosa, “Two Trials”, 1984. Private collection © Adagp, Paris, 2023. Photo: Vincent Di Rosa

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