The exhibition examines the relationship between art and music during the post-war period, from the mandolin motif in post-Cubism, and Arman’s obsessive violin destruction; to the abstract manifestation of sound, and James Pichette’s performances painting with a live jazz band.
Over the centuries musical instruments have often appeared in art with various symbolic connotations, reaching an apogee in the Cubists’ use of distinctly un-classical instruments such as tenoras and guitars. An aspect of the movement conspicuously retained in Claude Venard’s post-cubist “La Mandoline” from 1956 featured in the exhibition, along with Jean Chevolleau’s kaleidoscopic composition “Le Banjo”. This symbolic tradition could be said to culminate in Arman’s obsessive deconstruction of musical instruments in the 1960’s ad absurdum.
However, in 1912 Wassily Kandinsky’s essay “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” proposed a radically new connection between fine art and music. Kandinsky observed that music was fundamentally abstract, and this led him to deduce that colour and form must also have a similar effect on our senses, resonating the human soul in accordance with the composition, whether harmonious or discordant. This revelation became a tenet of abstract art in the twentieth century influencing a generation of artists. One painter who would explore this theory to the extreme was James Pichette who held painting performances trying to capture the accompanying music of a live jazz band. The exhibition includes several examples of his work including his vibrant “Chant du Sud” from 1956. Other artists would adopt a similar if more private approach, listening to a particular recorded piece of music whilst painting, such as Pierre de Berroeta who “used the paint brush with such passion, as if it were a conductor’s baton, to interpret the energy into a visual manifestation,” creating works such as “Allegretto” from 1965.
Other highlights of the exhibition include Jean Lombard’s “L’Orchestre” from his acclaimed “série musique”, and Russian artist Serge Charchoune’s “Petite Composition Musicaliste” from 1945.