Friday, May 7, 2021

Lisson Gallery. Now Live — Bernard Piffaretti: Coda

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Bernard Piffaretti presents Coda for his second exhibition with Lisson Gallery. Frequently used in music, a ‘coda’ is a unique passage at the end of a score, concluding a piece of music often by creatively repeating a passage heard before but expanding on the theme to create a familiar, yet new, finale. For this exhibition, Piffaretti takes a step back in time to an earlier moment in his career, presenting a selection of paintings made between 1989 and 1999. As an addendum to this survey, the exhibition also features a series of new works, recently completed by the artist in his Paris studio. While the new works revisit previous themes and feature the characteristic ‘Piffaretti system’, they are layered and intensified. This chronological shift functions in much the same way as a coda in a piece of music or literary work, in that it is both a summary of what went before and also a conclusion.

This group of works reveals a surprisingly diverse range of styles and techniques, but are made whole by the presence of the single dividing vertical stripe. Each work in the exhibition ­­– and indeed every work made by Piffaretti since 1986 – features the ‘Piffaretti system’, whereby the canvas is twinned, one side a duplicate of the other separated by this vertical stripe. As the work is completed, the boundary between original and copy dissolves, and yet Piffaretti is most interested in the concept of the production of the imperfect image, how two things can never be perfectly identical.

Along with the signature central mark, other groupings of stripes appear across a number of the works featured in this display. These vary from the bold, tightly controlled and graphic resting resolutely on the surfaces, to less defined sections which play with a more ambiguous pictorial depth. Elsewhere these patterns overlap to create grids, or excised cross shapes from these structures float untethered in empty fields of colour.

The exhibition includes some of the earliest examples of the artist’s more representational compositions – métapeintures – which are devised using reduced or abbreviated marks. These works have the quality of signs, logos, or extracts from cartoons, and highlight Piffaretti’s democratic approach and appetite for all strands of visual language.

This inclusion of this additional body of work emphasises the ongoing tendency for deliberate repetition, rephrasing, and reworkings of previous formal motifs in Piffaretti’s practice. By operating in this manner, the artist allows the work to be always inscribed in an ongoing, unfinished state and to remain vital for both the maker and his audience.

To add context to the exhibition, virtual loans of important early works, from Centre Pompidou, Frac Bourgogne, and Fondation Cartier, are also included.

On the occasion of the exhibition, a video was made in Piffaretti’s studio by the director and filmmaker Justin Westover. Watch the full film here.

Bernard Piffaretti: Coda is on view until 23 August.

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