"There is no art without intoxication. But I mean mad intoxication! Let reason teeter! Delirium! The highest degree of delirium! Plunged in burning dementia! Art is the most enrapturing orgy within man's reach. Art must make you laugh a little and make you a little afraid. Anything as long as it doesn't bore." --Jean Dubuffet
For many of us, going to Paris means visiting museums. "Doing art" in a series of day-long assaults is much akin to deliberately trying to drink a case of beer in a single sitting: chances are you won't remember much past the first six or seven, and if you were able to recall it, it would be a fuzzed affair that would certainly and rapidly nosedive into gross insensibility. But when you live in Tianjin and find yourself in Paris, there's a very good chance that you will hop right into the middle of all that Art. And so we did, though I would not pursue the same route if I were to return. The Louvre in the summer was a painful crush, and the only place I felt comfortable was in the sculpture courtyards. I've written about the experience on my blog. My favorite place by a factor of n - where n is the next discovered prime - was the Musée National d'Art Moderne, where I would have camped out if it had not been for security and rules. It would have given me more time to spend with Jean Dubuffet.
"The Greek idea of the Seven Arts is very stupid. There are many more than seven arts. The Arabic people know how to throw their cloaks over their shoulders in a certain way. When Europeans go over there, they see that, but they don't think it's an art because the Greeks didn't call cloak-throwing one of the Seven Arts.
But the people who do it, they know it's an art. That's the reason I was interested in the work of people who knew nothing of the art of museums or have decided to forget all they have seen in museums, to fight against it. The art in museums prevent people from creating. It's intimidating to them." --Jean Dubuffet, National Observer, 16 June 1973, 21
Despite what Mr. Dubuffet had to say about museums, many of his works can be found in the world's best, and for that I am very thankful. I am also thankful that artists are not intimidated by what they find in museums, but instead are moved and inspired, which, above all else, should be all museum's raison d'être.
Dubuffet was a bit of a crank, which is perhaps one of the reasons I like him so much. But in the end that is really no matter, since it's his art that draws me in: through my eyes, imagination and memory. His first work that snatched me away, Happy with Little - a crazed, goofy salute to the unhinged joy of being alive in all of this, at this very moment - was hanging in the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. I have yet to see it again. When I returned to the East Wing it wasn't there. Since that accidental meeting I have never failed to look for his works wherever I go.
A little explanation concerning these photos: if you were to see Jean Dubuffet's Jazz Band (Dirty Style Blues) in the wild you would see that it is somewhat darker. What you would also see is that the piece is oddly lit. Not that the room was dark, because that wasn't the case. There was no exterior light, and it was like viewing inside a closet. There was something about the space that wasn't right, though, in memory, I can't finger it. Be that as it may, I have 'light enhanced' some of the photos in order to see details. I make no apology for it. Without a modicum of light enhancement it would be difficult to see many of the works. In most museums camera flashes are, thankfully, out of the question, though it doesn't keep people from flashing anyway, since many folks with point 'n clicks have no idea how to turn the flash off. Every photo in their life - in June noon full sun as well as in museums that have 'no flash' rules - is taken with a flash flashing away, since it is just too damn much work to read the manual and learn how to turn it off. (So, are you beginning to understand why I love Dubuffet?)