Most Wanted Men
22 April – 20 May 2006
As part of the joint project by Erna Hecey and Jan Mot, Erna Hecey Gallery is pleased to present an exceptional new work by Pierre Bismuth that transgresses the boundaries of the traditional exhibition space.
Street graffiti meets sixties conceptualism in Bismuth’s Most Wanted Men. The title, a reference to Andy Warhol’s famous photographic series of wanted criminals, refers here to the hottest artists in the contemporary scene, their names spray-painted by Bismuth in different colors both inside the gallery and in various locations across the city. Combining media culture’s fascination for celebrities, graffiti art, and a reflection on the function of the signature, Most Wanted Men exemplifies one of Bismuth’s basic creative strategies: to make a work out of the structuring conventions of other artworks and mass media products in order to expose different mechanisms of visibility and meaning creation. In the first place, Most Wanted Men offers an ironic comment on a certain deadlock in conceptual art, which heralded the “death of the author” and the dethronement of romantic genius while greatly magnifying the importance of the signature as a final guarantee of the “dematerialized” object. Bismuth’s graffiti makes of these most wanted signatures an autonomous work by cutting the signature off from any external reference (the name is no longer attached to a work) and from its auratic link to the person (it is not the named artist who signs). Furthermore, the formal simplicity of the artist’s graffiti technique creates a lively contradiction with the much vaunted names that constitute the work’s content — names that become strangely meaningless when viewed in the context of city streets and neighborhoods where hot artists are total unknowns (instead of art escaping the confines of the institution into the hustle and bustle of life, here it is literally the names that break free and mingle with the world). Finally, Most Wanted Men plays on the alienating distance between person and name, and the quasi-autonomous life that names sometimes lead, best expressed by a line from Lou Reed’s Songs for Drella, itself a comment on Warhol’s fame: “People who want to meet my name are always disappointed in me.”
Most Wanted Men continues Pierre Bismuth’s exploration of the paradoxes of the proper name begun in works such as “Certificates of Authenticity” (2000, in progress), where different artists certify that the document in question is not an original work, “To Kate from Kate” (2005), a series of dedicatory notes by Hollywood stars starting and ending with Kate Winslet, and “Wearing the Name of Someone You Might Never Meet” (2001), t-shirts emblazoned with names randomly chosen from the telephone book.
At Jan Mot Bismuth will create another unique work involving graffiti, making an enameled plaque with the design of the graffiti found on the façade of the gallery. Over the course of one year, Pierre Bismuth will make a series of plaques representing all the graffiti left on Jan Mot’s gallery.