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Last updated: 6/23/2019
Home / Gallery Tour 1 / COBRA / Gallery Tour 2 / Artists
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Pierre Alechinsky (b. 1927): Le Chien Roi / The Dog King

The Dog King / Boxes / Central Park / Critters / Drawings / Faces / Grandes Marges / Hors Texte
Labyrinths / Landscapes / Maps / Margin and Center / 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 2014, as the Year of the Snake winds down to its close on 31 January, we are presenting our largest Alechinsky show to date (which will be on the walls at least until 4 May 2014). In our Upton space, we can fit more Alechinsky works 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.

In 1983, Alechinsky and Michel Butor (winner of many French literary prizes and highly praised by Roland Barthes as an "epitome of Structuralism") collaborated on a set of 8 etchings on China paper in black and white with marginal watercolor applied via pochoir. The following year they released a set of colored etchings on Arches with a violet pochoir border. We present this second set below. Michel Butor's text is avaialbe in Le Chien Roi (Paris: Daniel Lelong Éditeur, 1984). We follow the order in this text.
Oranges de Binche (GL 38, 1990) Original color etching with pochoir, 1984. 75 signed & numbered impressions. Image size: 565x760mm. The personage in blue is wearing what in other works is called a "chapeau d'écriture" (a hat made of writing or a hat for writing). Price: Please call or email for current pricing information..

The white areas are actually white.
Gueule de proue / Mouth bow (GL 38, 1990) Original color etching with pochoir, 1984. 75 signed & numbered impressions. Image size: 565x760mm. Price: Please call or email for current pricing information.

The white areas are actually white.
Tunnel (GL 38, 1990) Original color etching with pochoir, 1984. 75 signed & numbered impressions. Image size: 565x760mm. Price: SOLD.
Rhizome (GL 38, 1990) Original color etching with pochoir, 1984. 75 signed & numbered impressions. Image size: 565x760mm. Price: Please call or email for current pricing information.

This work may offer us a way into an interpretation of these works. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari use the term "rhizome" and "rhizomatic" to describe theory and research that allows for multiple, non-hierarchical entry and exit points in data representation and interpretation. In A Thousand Plateaus, they oppose it to an arborescent conception of knowledge, which works with dualist categories and binary choices. A rhizome works with planar and trans-species connections, while an arborescent model works with vertical and linear connections. Their use of the "orchid and the wasp" is taken from the biological concept of mutualism, in which two different species interact together to form a multiplicity (i.e. a unity that is multiple in itself). Horizontal gene transfer would also be a good illustration.

"As a model for culture, the rhizome resists the organizational structure of the root-tree system which charts causality along chronological lines and looks for the original source of 'things' and looks towards the pinnacle or conclusion of those 'things.' A rhizome, on the other hand, is characterized by 'ceaselessly established connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles.' Rather than narrativize history and culture, the rhizome presents history and culture as a map or wide array of attractions and influences with no specific origin or genesis, for a 'rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo.' The planar movement of the rhizome resists chronology and organization, instead favoring a nomadic system of growth and propagation.

"In this model, culture spreads like the surface of a body of water, spreading towards available spaces or trickling downwards towards new spaces through fissures and gaps, eroding what is in its way. The surface can be interrupted and moved, but these disturbances leave no trace, as the water is charged with pressure and potential to always seek its equilibrium, and thereby establish smooth space."

Deleuze and Guattari introduce A Thousand Plateaus by outlining the concept of the rhizome (quoted from A Thousand Plateaus):
1 and 2: Principles of connection and heterogeneity: any point of a rhizome can be connected to any other, and must be

3. Principle of multiplicity: only when the multiple is effectively treated as a substantive, "multiplicity" that it ceases to have any relation to the One.
4. Principle of asignifying rupture: a rhizome may be broken, but it will start up again on one of its old lines, or on new lines

5 and 6: Principle of cartography and decalcomania: a rhizome is not amenable to any structural or generative model; it is a "map and not a tracing"

In this series, there are evidently two kinds of image: single figures who stand apart from their surroundings and images that are everywhere connected to everything else.
    Sphinx en chapeau / Sphinx wearing a hat (GL 38, 1990). Original color etching with pochoir, 1984. 75 signed & numbered impressions. Image size: 565x760mm. Price: Please call or email for current pricing information.

    The white areas are actually white.
    De toutes parts / Everywhere (GL 41, 1990). Original color etching with pochoir, 1984. 75 signed & numbered impressions. Image size: 565x760mm. Price: Please call or email for current pricing information.

    The white areas are actually white.
    Papier de mur / Wall paper (GL 41, 1990). Original color etching with pochoir, 1984. 75 signed & numbered impressions. Image size: 565x760mm. Price: Please call or email for current pricing information.

    The white areas are actually white.
    Le Chien Roi / The Dog King (GL 38, 1990) Original color etching with pochoir, 1984. 75 signed & numbered impressions. Image size: 565x760mm. Price: Please call or email for current pricing information.

    The white areas are actually white.
    Each of the bays on the two long walls of the gallery are about 106 inches wide and have a usable height from the top of the bookshelf to the moulding in the center of each wall of about 100 inches: tall enbough for 3 rows of 28-1/4 inch frames, but not for four; just as the walls are not wide enough for 3 36-1/4 inch frames, just two (however three 24x32 inch frames fit nicely).
    The winner of the first Andrew W. Mellon Prize for Painting (1977) and the French Grand Prix National for painting in 1984, Alechinsky has been recognized in recent years as one of the most significant living artists. (The art market has also noticed his stature: one of his paintings sold at auction about 15 years ago for over Please call or email for current pricing information,000.)

    Alechinsky was just barely out of his teens when he burst onto the art scene as one of the original members of the COBRA group, and over the years he has emerged as one of the most imaginative and witty artists of our times. Alechinsky fans are everywhere. John Russell, who in 1986-87 devoted three separate columns in The New York Times to Alechinsky, sees him as "a man of strange blameless passions. Decorated invoices, worthless stock certificates, obsolete air-force navigational charts and ancient hand-written archival materials spark his imagination. . . . He has a taste for nature’s upheavals." Carlos Fuentes, the Mexican novelist for whom "the garden is the center of the world," has described Alechinsky as a man who "paints gardens. . . . He knows that the history of gardens is the history of all of us. . . . Alechinsky . . . chooses any of the forked paths of the manicured gardens at Blois or Hampton Court and then transforms them, ferociously, into the savage gardens of the primitive mind, the original unity of dream and awareness, reason and imagination, desire and reality." Indeed, it may be that it is his dream of recovering that lost unity that makes him, as The Times called him, "a poet of entanglement, [who] resolutely turns the emphasis away from himself, preferring to act rather as historian and referee than as autobiographer. . . . His touch is light, his thought rapid, his view of the world as sharp as it is benign. There is no better companion, and not many who keep us so consistently amused and are so generous with their findings."

    Alechinsky has had major retrospectives at The Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh (in 1977, the Year of the Snake),  the Guggenheim Museum in NY (987; it then traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, the Hannover Kunsteverin, and the Musée royal d'Art moderne in Brussels), the Palais des Beaux-Arts and the Musées Royeaux des Beaux Arts in Brussels, the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Musée National d'Art Moderne, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Boymans-von-Beuningen in Rotterdam, the Louisiana Museum in Humlebaek, and museums in Aalborg, Brême, Copenhagen, Darmstadt, Des Moines, Düsseldorf, Gordes, Hanover, Marseille, Metz, Mexico City, Munich, St. Paul de Vence, Toronto, and Zurich. The most recent encyclopedic Alechinsky museum shows of which I know were held at the  Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris (1998; a modified version of this show traveled in 1999 to the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (Monteray, Mexico), and the Museo José Luis Cuivas, Mexico City), IVAM Centre Julio González (Valencia, Spain, 2000); Alechinsky (Ostend: Musée d'art moderne, 2000), Alechinsky:Dessins de cinq décennes (Paris: Centre Georgres Pompidou, Musée national d'Art moderne, Cabinet d'art graphique, 2004), Alechinsky (Carl-Hennig Pedersen and Else Alfelt Museum, Herning, Denmark), Alechinsky de A à Y (Brussels: Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, 2007-2008: see pages 283-290 for a list of all of Alechinsky's one person shows).

    Alechinsky's most recent print retrospectives were held at the Museum of Modern Art (NY, 1981; organized by the MoMA, before it came to NY, it showed  at the San Jose Museum of Art, the University of Houston, The Edwin A. Ulrich Museum of Art at Whichta State University, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario, and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts), the Centre de la Gravure et de l'image imprimiée, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Moutier, Switzaerland (1982), Litos Perpetra: Pierre Alechinsky (Museuo de Belles-Artes, Caracas, 1990), Pierre Alechinsky: Carta Canta: mostra antologica dell'opera grafica 50-90 (Bologna), "Pierre Alechinsky: Graphics Retrospective (Taipai, 1992), Alechinsky: Labor de imprenta de cinco décadas (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo y Instituto de Artes Graficas, 1996-97), Pierre Alechinsky: Noir sur Blanc 1947-1997 (Geneva, Cabinet des esampres du Musée d'Art et d'HIstoire), Alechinsky, 50 ans d'imprimerie (Centre de la Gravure et de l'image imprimée de la Comunitée Française de Belgique, La Louverie, Belgium, 2000; the show then traveled to Poznan, Warsaw, Krakow, Quebec, Metz, Riom, and the Somme), Alechinsky: obra grafica (traveling show: Institut français de Valencia, Institut français de  Madrid, Institut français de Barcelona, Salamanca: Palacio de Abrantes, Universidad de Salamanca), "Alechinsky: Estampes" (Monte Carlo, 2000), Pierre Alechinsky: Estampes (Rieupeyroux, France: 2000), Pierre Alechinsky, estampes, 1975-2000 (Fougères: Galerie des Urbanistes, 2000), Primeurs et retrouvilles—Lithographies de Pierre Alechinsky (Paris: Editions Ateliers Clot, 2001), Pierre Alechinsky: Morsures et autres gravures (Strasburg: Misée d'art moderne et contemporain, 2002), Pierre Alechinsky: 50 jahr grafisch werk (Wortegen, Belgium, 2002), Pierre Alechinsky: lithographies réalisées aux Éditions Atelier Clot á Paris (Aux-les Bains, Musée Faure, 2003), Pierre Alechinsky: papier, cuivre, et pierre, depuis 1947 (Auvers-sur-Oise: Musée Daubigny, 2004), Les Impressions de Pierre Alechinsky (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale dee France, 2005), Pierre Alechinsky: Encres et espampes, 1969-2004 (Nice: Galerie d'art moderne et contemporain, 2005).

    Select Bibliography: General works: Daniel Abadie and Willy Van Den Bussche, Pierre Alechinsky (Ostend: PMMK, 2000); Pierre Alechinsky, Cent vingt dessins, donation de l'artiste (Brussels: Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels 1973); Pierre Alechinsky, Divers faits (Vevey: Musee Janisch, 2000); Pierre Alechinsky, Au Pays de l'encre (Paris: Centre Pompidou, 1998), Pierre Alechinsky, Dotremont et Cobra-foret (Paris: Galilee, 1988); Pierre Alechinsky, Drawings and Prints (Jerusalem: Musee d'Israel, 1970); Pierre Alechinsky, Hoirie Cobra (Caen: L'Échoppe, 1990); Pierre Alechinsky, Ideotraces (Paris: Editions Denoel, 1966); Pierre Alechinsky, Le bureau de titre (Paris: Fata Morgana, 1983); Pierre Alechinsky, Le test du titre: 6 planches et 61 titreurs d'elite (Paris: Yves Riviere Editeur, 1974); Pierre Alechinsky, Margin and Center (NY: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1987); Pierre Alechinsky, New Work: Pains de terre émaillé, Flora Danica drawings, Revalorisations (NY: Andre Emmerich Gallery, 1991); Pierre Alechinsky, Notes sur Orsay (Caen: L'Échoppe, 1989); Pierre Alechinsky, Paintings and Writings (Pittsburgh: Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, 1977); Pierre Alechinsky, Pierre Alechinsky: Werke 1958-1968 (Düsseldorf. Kunstverein fur die Rheinlande und Westfalen, 1969); Pierre Alechinsky, Reponses á un questionnaire (Caen: L'Echoppe, 1987); Pierre Alechinsky, The Future of Property. Fourteen Specimens re-evaluated by Pierre Alechinsky (NY: Lefebre Gallery, 1970); Pierre Alechinsky and Georges Duby, Alechinsky (Zurich: Maeght Zurich, 1980); Pierre Alechinsky, and Amos Kenan, Les Tireurs de Langue (Paris: Yves Riviere Editeur, 1974); Pierre Alechinsky and Karel Appel, Two-brush paintings. Their Poems by Hugo Claus. Foreword by Christian Dotrement (Paris: Yves Riviere Editeur, 1980); Karel Appel & Pierre Alechinsky, Encres á deux pinceaux (Paris: Yves Riviere Editeur, 1978); Alain Bosquet, Alechinsky (Paris: Le musée de poche 1971); Jacques Busse, Pierre Alechinsky (Chicago: Arts Club Of Chicago, 1965); Pierre Descargues, Alechinsky Bouches et Grilles (Paris: Galerie Maeght Lelong 1986); Christian Dotrement et al., Appel et Alechinsky: Encres à deux pinceaux, peintures, etc. (Saint Paul De Vence: Fondation Maeght, 1982); Georges Duby, Alechinsky (Zurich: Maeght Zurich 1980); Jacques Dupin, Alechinsky: Laves Emaillees (Paris: Galerie Lelong, 1988); Petit journal: Made in France 1947-1997 (Paris: Centre Pompidou, 1997); Jacques Putnam, Alechinsky (Paris: Celiv, 1990); Alain Robbe-Grillet, Pierre Daix et al., Pierre Alechinsky (Valencia: IVAM Centre Julio Gonzalez, 2000); Alain Robbe-Grillet, John Yau, Daniel Abadie and Pierre Daix, Pierre Alechinsky (Paris: Jeu de Paume, 1998); Michel Sicard, Alechinsky Sur Rhone (Paris: Galerie Lelong, 1990); Michel Sicard, ed. Pierre Alechinsky: Extraits pour traits (Paris: Galilée, 1989); Giorgio Soavi, Alechinsky: XXXVI Biennale de Venise, Pavillon Belge (Venice: Venice Biennale, 1972).

    Prints: Pierre Alechinsky, Alechinsky a l'imprimerie: 150 estampes (Paris: le Musee national d'art moderne, 1975, 1977); Pierre Alechinsky, Alechinsky (Rome: Edizioni 2RC, 1988); Pierre Alechinsky, Aux petits soins (Paris: Atelier Clot, 1989); Pierre Alechinsky, Ces robes qui m'evoquaient Venise. (Montpellier: Fata Morgana, 1988); Pierre Alechinsky, L'avenir de la propriéte (Montpellier: Fata Morgana, 1992); Pierre Alechinsky, Communication: 16 Manifestations d'Hypertrophie Calligraphique (Vouvière (Belgique): Editions du Daily-Bul, 1967); Pierre Alechinsky et al., The Complete Books: A Reasonable Catalogue (Antwerpen: Ceuleers & Van de Velde, 2002); Pierre Alechinsky and Michel Butor, Le Chien Roi (Paris: Daniel Lelong Editeur, 1984); Franck Bordas et al, Les Impressions de Pierre Alechinsky (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, 2005); Michel Butor et Michel Sicard, Pierre Alechinsky: Frontières et Bordures (Paris: Editions Galilee, 1984); Michel Butor et Michel Sicard, Alechinsky: Travaux d'Impression (Paris: Editions Galilee, 1992); Michel Draguet et al., Alechinsky from A to Y (Tielt, Belgium: Lannoo, 2007); Rainer Michael Mason et al, Pierre Alechinsky: Noir sur blanc (Geneva: Caninet des Estampes du Musee D'Art et D'Histoire, 1998); Yves Riviere, Pierre Alechinsky: Les estampes de 1946 a 1972 (Paris: Yves Riviere Editeur, 1973).

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