Henri CuecoHenri Cueco
Henri Cueco (1929 – 2017) grew up in Corrèze, a rural part of France. His father being a painter, art was part of his everyday family life; the young Henri began drawing very early on and sold his first works from the tender age of ten. Nature, present from the outset, formed a primary, fundamental theme that permeates his entire oeuvre. Enticed by the lure of adventure in Paris, from 1952 onwards the artist submitted his work each year to the Salon de la Jeune Peinture, a newly-created showcase for young painters. It was here that his work gained notice; it was also here that he pursued and embraced the spirit of shared commitment that led him to co-found the artists’ collective known as Coopérative des Malassis.
Cueco questioned the legacy of abstract art in 1963 by depicting the water of the river Vézère in material aspect paintings that tend towards monochrome. This initial landscape subject was followed by the theme of bathing, which introduced the female figure, and then that of the bedroom, related to the languid form of Danaë. In the mid-1960s, the depiction of bodies became more simplified. Cueco drew stylised figures, giving them different postures and combining them and their spatial movements in various ways. From his “Jeux d’adultes” (Adult Games) that explore the ambivalent and violent nature of sexual relations to “La Nouvelle Société” (New Society) that subverts stereotypes of savage and civilised, not forgetting the “Hommes Rouges” (Red Men) ill-treated by the big city or uprising in rebellion, Henri Cueco cultivates the art of contradiction, never adopting a strident stance. Beneath the lucid stylistic limpidity lurks an ambivalent message, uneasy and worried about a paradise that may well prove to be lost forever.
The current exhibition, which focuses on works created during the 1960s, revisits some iconic series that feature recurrent motifs and concerns. While drawing remains the cornerstone of Cueco’s approach, it is embodied and developed in his (monumental or miniature) paintings, cut-out and manipulated figures, and multi-piece works. For the artist constantly makes, unmakes and morphs work that develops in motion and cultivates non-completion.
This event is the first in a series of exhibitions on the work of Henri Cueco, organised in association with the Transpalette – Bourges Contemporary Art Centre and the Museum of Fine Arts in Dole.
Lecture by Renaud Faroux, art historian and journalist: “Figuration narrative : ‘les hommes rouges’ : Adami, Aillaud, Arroyo, Cueco, Erró, Equipo Crónica, Fahlström, etc.” (Narrative figuration: “the red men”: Adami, Aillaud, Arroyo, Cueco, Erró, Equipo Crónica, Fahlström, etc.), 21 September at 6.30 pm