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120 Main Street, Upton MA 01568-6193

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Last updated: 1/25/2017
Home / Gallery Tour 1 / COBRA / Gallery Tour 2 / Artists
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Pierre Alechinsky (b. 1927): Maps

The Dog King / Boxes / Central Park / Critters / Drawings / Faces / Grandes Marges / Hors Texte
Labyrinths / Landscapes / Maps / Mark-Making / Screamers / Snakes / Transformations / Venice / Volcanoes
In the Chinese calendar, the Year of the Snake comes every twelve years. For Pierre Alechinsky, a founding member of COBRA (an acronym for the cities that contributed members to the group, Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam), the Year of the Snake can be an auspicious one. In 1977, also the Year of the Snake, Alechinsky was awarded the first Andrew W. Mellon Prize for Painting and executed one of the prints we are featuring, also called The Year of the Snake. Spaightwood Galleries began in 1980, so we missed our 1977 observance, but by 1989, Alechinsky's Guggenheim retrospective (which had been traveling in Europe for almost two years) had finally come to its end, and Spaightwood presented our first major Alechinsky show and purchased a small oil painting on canvas by the artist. In 2001, we once again celebrated the Year of the Snake with an Alechinsky show, founded upon our acquisition of large numbers of the two pieces published in 1977 to celebrate his Mellon prize and augmented by many more recent etchings and lithographs published by Galerie Lelong. Now, in 2013, as the Year of the Snake winds down to its close no sooner than mid-April, we are presenting our largest Alechinsky show to date. In our Upton space, we can fit more Alechinsky’s on the walls than ever before—97 on the walls (some of them quite large) and more leaning against the bookshelves beneath the walls where the others are hanging—and we plan to luxuriate in lots of Alechinsky's favorite images: maps, Papiers traités, Central Park, snakes, volcanoes, gardens, dog-kings, smiling crocodiles and sea monsters, and people existing as best they can in a world that often seems to invite extreme emotional responses. (Sometimes you just want to scream!) We are featuring lots of Alechinsky's favorite images: Central Park, snakes, volcanoes, gardens, dog-kings, smiling crocodiles and sea monsters, and people existing as best they can in a world that often seems to invite extreme emotional responses. (Sometimes you just want to scream!) Still, the central act of Alechinsky's art is the making of marks on a sheet of paper, on a canvas, on a copperplate, on a lithographic stone: for that is what distinguishes artists (visual or verbal) from destroyers.

Maps often play a featured role in Alechinsky's works. In life, maps tell us how to get to where we want to go; in Alechinsky's art, however, they are often a symbol of order that must be destroyed if there is to be any freedom.
Dame Taride (GL 1991, n. 18). Original color etching and lithograph, 1990. 99 signed & numbered impressions on Arches, paper, of which ours is n. 22. We begin with a map of Paris by arrondissements published by "Cartes Taride." "Dame Taride" is evidently the spirit of the map and all roads leading to her (or from her?) in a swirl of vibrant colors. Maps are some of Alechinsky's favorite things: they let him remake the world in which he (and we?) live. Image size: 380x562mm. Price: $4250.
Rue serpente. Original color lithograph, 1982. 90 signed & numbered impressions on Arches wove paper; our impression is n. 18/90. Starting out on a journey across a map, a snaky road suddenly transforms into a giant serpent with a quasi-human face looming above the map upon which the design is imposed. Image size: 833x600mm (matted in a 36x28 inch sheet of archival acid-free museum board). Price: $3750.
Predateur. Original color lithograph and etching, 1983. 120 signed & numbered impressions on Arches wove paper; our impression is n. 28/120. This is one of only 26 prints to be inckuded in Alechinsky's 1987 Exhibnition at the Guggenheim Museum. The show then travelled to the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Once again, a map is the beginning of our journey into the realm of the imagination, sometimes a scary place filed with predators unknown to our waking moments, sometimes with those scary dreams transformed as in the round etching bottom right. Image size: 825x610mm (matted in a 36x28 inch sheet of archival acid-free museum board). Price: $4500.
Encrier de voyage / Inkwell travel Original color lithograph and etching, 1984. 75 signed & numbered impressions on Arches wove paper, of which this is n. 59. Alechinsky, the first winner of the Andrew W. Mellon prize for Painting (1977) and the French Grand Prix National for Painting in 1984, was one of the founders of the COBRA group in 1948. He is one of the most important artists of the post World War II era. Sometimes the best way of travelling is via the imagination, our own or the artists or the poet. Image size: 725x518mm (matted in a 36x28 inch sheet of archival acid-free museum board). Price: $3250.
Pochette de disque avec Michel Portal / Record jacket for Michel Portal. Original color lithograph and etching, 1987. 120 signed & numbered impressions on Arches wove paper, of which this is n. 88. Michel Portal is a good friend of Alechinsky and Alechinsky made two lithographs for him and allowed them to be reproduced on the covers of LPs of Portal's music. (One of them is also reproduced on the cover of Alechinsky's Guggenheim show catalog.) The centtral portion of this work is what was reproduced as cover art of an album of Portal's music. Portal, is a composer, saxophonist, and clarinet player. He has won the French equivalent of the Academy Award for best film music 3 times, the first for The Return of Martin Guerre. Image size: 735x523mm (matted in a 36x28 inch sheet of archival acid-free museum board). Price: $3750.
Chevalet renversée /The over-turned easel (GL 1988, p. 5). Original color lithograph, 1985. 120 signed and numbered impressions on Arches paper of which this is n. 99/120. Once again, we seee Alechinsky imposing his will upon a map, an arbitrary imposition that challenges our sense of where we are. On the large left-hand section, a map of Metz, haas been mostly over drawn by 5 unrelated scenes, 4 of which suggest tha the jungle is taking over and that civilization, as suggested by the map, is done. The 5th scene—a stairway to nothing–does not offer any palternative. The map orientation rotates 90º to the left on the right sid where we see a large face superimposed upon the map, a gray structure—perhaps a wsalled town, perhaps a place of sanctuary like Mt. St. Michel—and what may be a worm's eye view of a giant (what is a person to a worm?). The final scene shows us an over turned artist's easel. Image size: 535x670mm. Price: $3000.
Arrondissements: 16e Nord (Butor-Sicard 45). Original color lithograph, 1983. 99 signed & numbered impressions (of which ours is n. 56/99) plus 20 artist's proofs. This print is another example of Alechinsky's love affair with old maps and document: the lithograph is printed upon a facsimile of the 19th century Taride maps of Paris. Image size: 313x475mm. Price: $1600.
Promenade sur plan (ML 1985, p. 16). Original color lithograph, 1983. 75 signed & numbered impressions on Arches, of which ours is n. 14/75. One of Alechinsky's many obsessions is the relationship between people and maps. Some people think of maps as functional—a means to help one get from here to there. (This is now an obsolete conception, but it used to be valid). Alechinsky seems to think that maps exist so that they may be transformed by artists into art. Here, we can see three heads in profile in heavy black ink quickly sketched upon a map printed delicately in red ink. Image size: 175x215mm. Price: $1250.

Spaightwood Galleries, Inc.

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