Jean Legros (1917-1981)

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Exposition passéeDu 21 mars au 4 mai 2013

It might be the story, back in ’72, of a stroller stumbling upon the construction site of the Pompidou museum in the Beaubourg neighborhood of Paris. In the forest of colorful cranes, gleaming necks seemed to rise up toward the sky. The timing was right, because the stroller wanted the whole world to rise up, to make that world more livable. Artists, like birds, can nest pretty much anywhere. “My visions are based on nature,” he wrote in his notebooks. Space, the thrust of color, the deployment of energy—those were his concerns at the time. But how to render this quiet explosion ? “Art hangs by a thread, the thread of feeling,” he would repeat over and over. How to convey that feeling, which precedes thought ? How to express, above and beyond the vast construction site, the spirit it raised ? The answer was The Cranes of Beaubourg.

Stripes. They can be found on pajamas and umbrellas. But artists’ stripes are a different matter, because they’re not just pretty decoration. Jean Legros’ stripes may have originated in the Beauce region with its dizzying flatness—horizontal. They deploy the ultimate structure of color stripped bare. A kind of tension points toward the birth of sound or image, as though a river of emotion had found its outlet by following the same approach as today’s musicians—simple taut strings, parallel to the background noise filling the universe as it agitates space and time. Legros, as a physicist of color, sought new sources of feeling from these unknown vibrations ; like Mozart and Bach, he attempted harmonize colors that are enamored of one another. That’s what a musical round-dance is. A new musical scale, for a new artistry. In memory of Stockhausen (who, with Stimmung, supplied the early notes of his painting) and Barnett Newman (among his final brethren). Thus is Beauty discovered—“the pure light of truth,” say philosophers. So, whenever a gleam of that precious metal was glimpsed, the world had to be told, “like killer whales … in the deep.”

Roger Leloup


Jean Legros (1917-1981) . Listen / look