Born in 1939 in Pontchartrain, near Paris, Gérard Fromanger was an empathetic artist committed to his time: "Anguish is global: time, money, the market", he explained a few years ago at an exhibition.
Here's a short detour through his artistic career, accompanied by a selection of works to discover his world.
The name Gérard Fromanger conjures up a series of motifs, figures and events that trace a part of the history of post-war France. A story that begins with a friendship with Jacques Prévert, followed by May '68, with its red silhouettes, urban passers-by and play on colors, a film with Jean-Luc Godard, writings with Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault and Félix Guattari... in short, he's a key figure in Figuration Narrative.
The members of Figuration Narrative are not linked by any manifesto, but share a common desire - in reaction to abstract art - to return to painting as narrative, however trivial, however committed. Their works have often taken on an aesthetic, political and societal accent in a France shaken by the Algerian and Vietman wars and the May 1968 crisis.
In 1964, at a group show when he was not yet a household name, "my painting was put in the toilet", recalls Gérard Fromanger. "It was there that Giacometti, half-God on earth, saw and loved my painting. I introduced myself. Art history is a relay race. If you don't grab the baton, you're not in the race."
During May 1968, he was heavily involved in the Atelier populaire des Beaux-Arts, which produced hundreds of mural posters and slogans to accompany student and worker struggles.
Gérard Fromanger used his camera to take pictures with no deliberate point of view, no special framing, "images taken like film from the anonymous movement of what is happening", in the words of Michel Foucault. He considers the friendship of poets, philosophers, writers, painters and sculptors, filmmakers, musicians and architects to be the driving force behind his creative process.
Although Gérard Fromanger's medium was painting, his approach was resolutely graphic.
Color plays an important role in his work. Color is alive, simple, full and luminous. It seems to express the part of dreams and passions in contrast to the dullness and realism of the world. "I very quickly chose the spectrum of colors as my alphabet", he says.
The Centre Pompidou, which has thirty-six works by the artist in its collection, devoted a vast retrospective exhibition to him in 2016. A thematic tour highlighted the duality at the heart of Gérard Fromanger's art : pictorial passion and concern for the world.
A red half-sphere provided a mischievous filter through which to view his work, as if to make his famous red silhouettes disappear with a wave of his magic wand.
For the anecdote, Graphéine's old offices were located at the same address as Gérard Fromanger's studio. We sometimes did him a few favors, such as "Hey youngsters, do you know how to set up my e-mail box on my computer?
Here are a few images of our courtyard, inhabited for an afternoon by anonymous visitors. These banal silhouettes will naturally evoke the vector silhouettes that have helped out more than one graphic designer in need of images. Since 1971 (long before the invention of Illustrator!), Gérard Fromanger has been making banality blush... as if to fight against it. A leitmotif that would be the beginning of a long series of paintings... and now sculptures!
Below, a short report in which he presents his work.