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Last updated: 7/21/2017
Gérard Titus-Carmel (French, b. 1942): Suite Narwa (1978)
Gérard Titus-Carmel is an artist of the same generation as my wife and I. Born in 1942, he, like the others of our time, grew up in an international world, a world where national boundaries exist as memories of a world we can no longer afford, a world of national interests, rivalries, wars. Born during the second world war, we know it only through the nightmares of our parents, the memories of our elders. We are the children of the bomb, survivors of grade school civil-defense exercises in case of nuclear attack, the adolescents of the nervous and electric rhythms of hard-bop, voyagers with musicians like Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins, Eric Dolphy (with whom Titus, a drummer, played, for one set, once) and John Coltrane, explorers of the musical unknown. We have listened to the same music, read the same books, visited many of the same places, looked at much of the same art. Living in the same world, and trying to come to terms with the things that shaped it, we came of age during the Cuban Missile crisis with its threat of a holocaust greater than any that haunts the dreams of our parents' generation. We have lived almost our entire lives in a world held in uneasy peace only by the threat of "Mutual Assured Destruction." Yet we have also walked in the ruins of Monte Alban and stood in the ball court of the Olmecs; we have listened to ancient mariners as the surf laps the shores bordering the oceans of our dreams. For our generation, the problem has been one not so much of finding reality, but of finding a reality that will permit us to live not just within our world but within ourselves as well. For that effort, we need more than the "superrealism" or the theatrical "neo-expressionism" of the '80s, more than an art that commercially derides "the system" for being too commercial; we need an art that can take us beyond the surfaces, that remembers its past and our past, that can teach us what to remember and how to forget what we do not need to remember to go on with life.
Titus-Carmel’s work is simultaneously utterly fascinating and just a bit disturbing: to be forced to see these ‘made-up objects‘ with such intensity and so convincingly present is to forget Magritte's injunction (‘Ceci n'est pas un pipe’; it was, of course, not a pipe, but a painting of a pipe, a representation, or, if you will, a re-presentation of a pipe, a common object as seen by the artist and shown by him to us)these are "Tlingit Coffins," "Narwa objects," etc, but, then again, what are they, these imaginary objects shown with utter fidelity to the ‘real' models Titus-Carmel often makes before he begins his drawings and etchings? What indeed are they, these objects Titus-Carmel sees and how are we to seee them? In the five mixed media prints (combining etching, aquatint, and drypoint) we see in each at the top of the sheet printed in a color different than the much larger detail below a cloth (a sail?) wrapped around a large stick to which it is tied at the top; at the bottom of the sheet, suspended from the top, is another large stick hangin from cloth ties from the upper stick. Below it we see a much larger detail of this small composition printed in a different color ink. Upon closer examination and re-examinationm, it becomes clearmostly, sort of, maybethat none of the details correspond exactly to their section of the small depiction of the whole above.
Unlike the images in The Pocket-Size Tlingit Coffin, the Suite Narwa is not threatening or strange or weird. They could almost depict what might be a rolled up tarp or sail (except for the sticks), except that they ultimately call into question whether the differences we are seeing actually are there and if they are there whether the differences actually matter. Perhaps there is simply a moments time differential between the top images; perhaps they are supposed to be similar, but not identical. Perhaps. But perhaps not. Suppose we are meant to see that there are differences and that we are indeed seeing them truly. Either way, what are we supposed to do with them? Just as one can never step into the exact same river twice, can one not look at the same object and see it the same way twice?And if we cannot, what hapens to all of our confidence in our ability to make true measurements or true judgments? If we can't trust our own eyes, whom or what can we trust?
Titus-Carmel is one of the most written-about contemporary French artists, having been the subject of studies by Jacques Derrida, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Gilbert Lascault, Werner Spies, Jean Pierre Faye, Denis Roche, Jean Louis Schefer, and many others. He is also one of the most widely shown artists of his generation (b. 1942), having received over 400 group ahows and over150 oneperson shows at museums and galleries including The Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris (1971), the 1972 and 1984 Venice Biennales, the Royal College of Art in London (1972), the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1973), the Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels (1975), the Centre Georges Pompidou / Musée National d'Art Moderne (1978), the Museums of Dusseldorf (1979), Bielefeld (1980), Kassel (1980), Nuremberg (1981), Oslo (1981), Lubceck (1981), Les Sables d'Olonne (1981), Luxemburg, Calais, (1984), Nice, Carcassonne, and Lille (1985), Quebec (1986), Budapest, and Châteauroux (1987), Caen (1989), Montaubon and Avignon (1990), and Tokyo (1991). In addition, the French Cultural Ministry also organized touring exhibits at the Instituts Français of Stuttgart, Hamburg, Munich, and Bonn (1985), Damascus, Aleppo, Alexandria, Cairo (1990-1991), and Palermo, Naples, and Rome (1991). His works are in the permanent collections of over 100 public institutions including the Guggenheim Museum (New York), the Museum of Modern Art (N.Y. and Paris), the Chicago Art Institute, the Bibliotheque National and the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), and many others. He has also participated as the official delegate for France in numerous international exhibitions, such as the Biennial of Paris (Paris, 1969), Expo ’70 (Osaka, 1970), the Biennial of Alexandria (Alexandria, 1971), “Amsterdam-Paris-Düsseldorf ” (Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1972), Dokumenta VI (Kassel, 1977), “European Dialogue” (the Sidney Biennial, 1979), “Statements/Leading Contemporary Artists from France”(New York, Dallas, San Francisco, Seattle, 1982), Biennale Internazionale Arte (Venice, 1972 and 1984), “Gerard Titus-Carmel: Forging the Real” (Spaightwood Galleries, 1988), Art in France: a Century of inventions (Moskva , Leningrad, 1989), “Contemporary Art in France” (French Pavillion, Universal exposition, Sevilla, 1992), Fonds regional d’art contemporain de Picardie (1993), the Instituts Français of Casablanca, Rabat, Tangier, and Tetuan (1995), Musée de l’Hospice Saint-Roch, Issoudun (1997), Soissons (1998), Titus-Carmel: Une decennie (a large-format hardcover published by Editions Palantines, 2000 to accompany a touring show that went to 5 French museums documented many of the series of the preceding 10 years), another large-format work, Gérard Titus-Carmel: La parte du livre (Reims: Bernard Dumerchez éditeur, 1995) documented Titus’ involvement with books (whether as writer, illustrator, or subject), François-Marie Deyrolle, ed. La Geste & la Mémoire: Regardes sur la peinture de Gérard Titus-Carmel (Ain: L’Act Mem, 2007) contained 28 brief essays collected from prefaces to various exhibition catalogs between 1973 and 2006) by a wide range of poets, novelists, and art critics among others. In 2007, Michael Bishop’s The Endless Theory of Days: The Art and Poetry of Gérard Titus-Carmel (NY: Rodopi, 2007), the first full-length study of Titus as artist and poet in English. Last, but hardly least, in 1987, the University of Chicago Press published Jacques Derrida, The Truth in Painting, trans. Geoff Bennington and Ian MacLeod, chapter 3 of which contains an English translation of Cartouches, the essay that Derrida wrote in 1978 to introduce the installation of Titus’ exhibition of The Pocket Size Tlingit Coffin, a collection of 127 mixed-media drawings on an imaginary object that Titus invented, manufactured, and drew over the course of a year and which the Musée national d’art moderne at the Centre Pompidou purchased in its entirety.
Suite Narwa I (Machida 102). Original color etching, aquatint, and drypoint (in sepia on the small plate at top) printed by Alain Controu and published by Maeght Editeu, 1978. 100 signed and numbered impressions, 10 artist's proofs, and 14 HC impressions all on Arches paper. Image size: 455x455mm; small plate 142x247mm. Paper size: 760x560mm. Price: $1750.
Suite Narwa II (Machida 103). Original color etching, aquatint, and drypoint (in sanguine on the small plate at top) printed by Alain Controu and published by Maeght Editeu, 1978. 100 signed and numbered impressions, 10 artist's proofs, and 14 HC impressions all on Arches paper. Image size: 455x455mm; small plate 142x247mm. Paper size: 760x560mm. Price: $1750.
Suite Narwa III (Machida 104). Original color etching and aquatint (in noir bistre), and drypoint (in bistre on the small plate at top) printed by Alain Controu and published by Maeght Editeu, 1978. 100 signed and numbered impressions, 10 artist's proofs, and 14 HC impressions all on Arches paper. Image size: 455x455mm; small plate 142x247mm. Paper size: 760x560mm. Price: $1750.
Suite Narwa IV (Machida 105). Original color etching and aquatint (in two tones of black), and drypoint (in two tones of black on the small plate at top) printed by Alain Controu and published by Maeght Editeu, 1978. 100 signed and numbered impressions, 10 artist's proofs, and 14 HC impressions all on Arches paper. Image size: 455x455mm; small plate 142x247mm. Paper size: 760x560mm. Price: $1750.
Spaightwood Galleries owns almost every print Titus-Carmel has made since 1975 (and a few before that), 7 paintings, 4 collages, 7 watercolors, and 8 drawings. If you are interested in a piece we have not yet illustrated on our web-site, please call or e-mail us. In 1992 Spaightwood published Gérard Titus-Carmel: Forging the Real. With 43 illustrations, an insightful essay, a list of one-person exhibitions, and a full but selective bibliography of writings about Titus-Carmel, it’s the best available introduction to his work (up to 1992) in English. Available for only $5.00 plus shipping via priority mail for $7.20.
Suite Narwa V (Machida 106). Original color etching and aquatint (in black), and drypoint (in bistre on the small plate at top) printed by Alain Controu and published by Maeght Editeu, 1978. 100 signed and numbered impressions, 10 artist's proofs, and 14 HC impressions all on Arches paper. Image size: 455x455mm; small plate 142x247mm. Paper size: 760x560mm. Price: $1750.
We also have copies of the 1992 Catalogue Raisonne of his prints published in Tokyo by the Machida Museum with text in Japanese and French and illustrations of every print Titus had made up until the date of its publication (about 200 works). Three thousand copies were printed, and almost all sold in Tokyo. Rare in Europe and America. Mint copies availabe for $125
We also have copies of the 1992 Catalogue Raisonne of his prints published in Tokyo by the Machida Museum with text in Japanese and French and illustrations of every print Titus had made up until the date of its publication (about 200 works). Three thousand copies were printed, and almost all sold in Tokyo. Rare in Europe and America. Mint copies available for $125 plus shipping.
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