With "Slight Crosswind"*, MAC/VAL presents France's first major exhibition of the work of Noël Dolla, in Vitry-sur-Seine. Noël Dolla is in essence a loose cannon - an artist who has never long been beholden to a single manner of painting. His work has constantly been marked by an experimental nature, a perpetual sense of motion, freewheeling starts and stops, hot and cold, abrupt chasms, biographical detours, and furtive return. Noël Dolla joins recent works with older pieces for the Val-de-Marne contemporary art museum, creating an artistic path for visitors to follow this daring painter.
MAC/VAL presents the first major French exhibition of the work of Noël Dolla, a major French artist who since 1967 has pushed painting and the status of the artist to their limits. Dolla calls himself a painter "in the spirit of abstraction". He undermines the abstract/figurative divide by rightly shifting the problem of abstraction from one of style to one of method and model.
Over time, he discovered that space has no direction in abstract painting, and that it was therefore in "freefall". One constant in his work, however, is that regardless the direction taken, history and memory have always left their mark. "I've always been obsessed with avoiding repetition, which is why I've adopted several different artistic practices while gauging how an artistic gesture is always conditioned by what came before it."
For Noël Dolla, nothing can be taken for granted. Nothing is planned or foreseeable. He plays at painting and makes up the rules as he goes along.
That is undoubtedly what gives his work such disconcerting freedom, its whiff of intelligent provocation. Dolla invents a popular abstraction verging on kitsch, transforming the most banal objects into artistic material: mops, handkerchiefs, rooster feathers, tarlatan cloth, lures. The works that built his renown in the late sixties, however, share little with the typical construction of the Supports/Surfaces movement which served as a main reference for their initial interpretations. This use of life as material also led Noël Dolla to work directly with nature.
With no absolute pronouncements, no penchant for demonstration, he leads us to question our way of viewing, forcing us to see painting in a multitude of available spaces. "In art, there are two phases: that of life and the artist, and then that of the public, the collector; the two meet only when there is a third phase, that of the atelier" affirms Dolla. A teacher at the Villa Arson in Nice since 1974, he belongs to no artistic movement or school, and although he instructs, he does not claim to serve as a model.
That brings us to the exhibition phase, invited by MAC/VAL's curator Frank Lamy. The exhibition is designed based on (or inside of) recent works (2002-2009) and older, sometimes even historical, works, set up inside three bird traps conceived as different areas of the brain, thus as traps of memory.
The exhibition is complemented with representative works such as "the big lure" and, for the garden, a drying rack and garden shed - familiar household objects as a way of approaching the history of painting and the artist's own personal history.
*His title "Slight Crosswind" is evocative of the spirit of the artist, as histrionic as he is sensitive (both an agitator and deeply human) and alludes to a 1991 play premiered following the death of his brother.