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  • Writer's pictureHinton Magazine

The worlds of Olivier O. Olivier

Galerie de l’Institut presents from October 12th to November 30th, 2023, the exhibition "The worlds of Olivier O. Olivier"

Olivier O. Olivier's work lies on the fringes of the major trends of his time. In an era where the art scene is constantly reinventing itself, he developed a realism composed of improbable encounters. There is always something unexpected in his work, a deviation, a displacement of the meaning of things, which creates a poetry of the unusual, the absurd. Olivier O. Olivier's creations transport the mind to unusual realms where humor and playfulness are omnipresent.

Olivier O. Olivier, Vogue audacieux pianiste, 2004 © ADAGP, Paris, 2023

"I always have the feeling of playing while painting [...] I believe that's also the mindset of certain writers - from the greatest like Rabelais to Georges Pérec - who play with words." Olivier O. Olivier emphasizes that when he paints, he never knows in advance what will happen. "If I knew, I wouldn't try to paint, of course. That would bore me." What interests him is the discovery.

While the games created by Olivier O. Olivier are visual, they are also verbal - in this regard, one naturally thinks of Marcel Duchamp. The humorous and perplexing element of his creations also lies in the relationship between the title and the image. The artist always conceives his titles afterwards. They are often witty words closely linked to the image; visual wordplay, for example, "The Artist Painted by Himself," 1970 (private collection) in which he paints his own face, or "Equestrian Portrait," 1998, or "Bold Pianist in Vogue," 2004 (present in the exhibition, photographs attached to the press release). He masterfully handled all techniques, such as pencil, charcoal, pastel, watercolor, gouache, oil, and printmaking.

Olivier O. Olivier, Portrait équestre, 1998 © ADAGP, Paris, 2023


"It is almost always while walking that I find the subjects for my paintings." - Olivier O. Olivier

His work revolves around recurring subjects that form large series, to which he returns over the years: Animals, music, circular landscapes, bullfights in frozen arenas where the matadors and picadors are snowmen. Hands are frequently represented in unexpected situations, for example, "The Concert" and "The Ball" (present in the exhibition).

Music occupies a central place in his work. He was particularly fond of jazz. The musical theme inhabits the artist's work through the hands that embody the dual role of the musician and the instrument. Pianos in the midst of waves or on the ice floe, as well as in "Minuet of Lice," 1975, with hair used as violin strings (presented in the exhibition).

"My musical instruments cannot produce any sound. They belong to the realm of painting." - Olivier O. Olivier quoted by Gilbert Lascaux.

Prehistoric animals, elephants, horses, turtles, and snails are his "favorite animals." His prehistoric animals can be found both at the Menagerie of the Jardin des Plantes and in the streets of Montparnasse, for example, "Rue Léopold-Robert" or "Near the Aviary" (present in the exhibition).

"The Prodigal Elephant: The Return of the Prodigal Elephant" appears in Olivier O. Olivier's work in 1971-1973. Human carriers replace the elephant's four legs. They are entirely dressed in gray, the same gray as the animal's skin, which gives them the appearance of stone statues, caryatids. In 1998, three large pastels conclude the cycle of "The Prodigal Elephant."

"I couldn't resist the temptation to create a large pastel representing the end of 'The Prodigal Elephant': it is seen as a skeleton in a natural history museum in Paris or Marseille. My mother and a close relative visit it" (present in the exhibition).

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