Arnaud Labelle-Rojoux — L’oignon fait la sauce


Mixed media

Arnaud Labelle-Rojoux
L’oignon fait la sauce

Past: December 9, 2011 → January 14, 2012

Arnaud Labelle-Rojoux, Mardi gras

The expression comes to mind to designate the carnivalesque dimension of his work.

Just as for Arnaud Labelle-Rojoux the “parodic”1 is much more than simple satire, so carnival in this context is something that goes beyond a set of immediate pranks. Nor is it exactly the common or thematic denominator of a certain number of his pieces, whether near or far (this is how he starts the list of his favourite motifs: clown, god, mask, dead, devil, witch). It needs, rather, to be understood in its deepest and most subversive sense, that of an overturning of values,2 a process which was traditionally confined to a limited part of the year, but which seems to be permanently active in his work, to be its very foundation.

This practice of reversal has a Surrealist side: ALR’s invaginated glove would then be his fascination for the obverse of things, the individual or collective repressed, the accursed share of art history; his assertion of subjectivity or his taste for the overturning of what seemed obvious — for the habit makes the monk, the onion makes the sauce.

No doubt, too, that are is a kind of persistence of the Dadaist principle of equivalence. Yes = No, said Ribemont-Dessaignes. Here high = low, sacred = profane, private = public, positive = negative; hence Gilbert & George transformed into white poodles (Gilbert & George, 2005), and a famous boys band transfigured into a triplicate Beuys (Beuys Band, 1997).

But ALR has so many acknowledged references that he avoids the threat of limitation to a defining model. As the son of a good family he is not free of bourgeois culture, nor does he reject it, but, not without violence, nor without a certain pleasure in debasement, he mixes it up with trivial, vulgar and even trash references. Mediocrity is further down the line, and he observes it gaily: it is his way of worseness, the only way of getting beyond taste — good taste and his own taste.

From Gombrowicz he borrows the words: “Every form is a limitation and a lie,” and his approach to art manifest all the energy of that avowed “immaturity.” It is enacted in a permanent questioning of the values of art. Careful not to paint itself into a corner, meaning slides, keeps escaping into the multiplicity of registers, references, mediums and associations that run through his work. Rather than “uncultured,” his immaturity is hyper-cultivated, almost hypermnesic, but also resolutely subjective:

“I claim the right to a subjectivity that is unreformable because totally irrational, verging in idiocy". 3

Smile, it’s art!

1 Arnaud Labelle-Rojoux, L’art parodic’, Paris, Java, 1996.

2 This is the meaning defined by Mikhail Bakhtin in his book Rabelais and His World, John Wiley and Sons, 1984.

3 Arnaud Labelle-Rojoux, interview with Eric Mangion, On va encore manger froid ce soir, catalogue of the exhibition at MAMAC, Nice, Paris, Semiose/Loevenbruck, 2008, p. 127.

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6, rue Jacques Callot

75006 Paris

T. 01 53 10 85 68 — F. 01 53 10 89 72


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