Erró at Carré’s

Erró, Léger, 1997

An exhibition of Erró’s work is never just an Erró exhibition. With this artist, it’s always systematic: he never comes on his own, but is accompanied by his artist friends, as well as historical figures and other characters of fiction who follow along. They are of both sexes and all ages. Though some of them are dead, they all look very much alive. They are speaking all languages or are shouting out loud. They are moving about a great deal and mixing together very easily. They have varied activities, some honourable, others doubtful or even criminal. To tell the truth, you can find people from all types of background and walks of life. This is his absolute rule, his way of living and painting.

Invited to Louis Carré’s house out in the country, Erró arrives with a great crowd. It would have been a pity to miss such an occasion to invite them all. Fernand Léger is the first to enter, which is normal since he knew the first owner of the house well, and, naturally, he does not come alone, but is followed by his retinue of clad and naked ladies. They have no time to get dressed after their working-class libertine lunch on the grass. Pablo Picasso appears on the heels of Léger, with his escort of mistresses – Dora Maar crying all the time and Marie-Therese smiling – along with a man in a straw hat who continues eating his ice-cream cone. The third to enter in his turn is George Grosz, followed by his German and American models, each one as immodest as the others. This small world starts chatting about Cubism, New Objectivity and also Communism. On hearing this word, Mao Tse-Tung quickens his pace: we should say that he is arriving from Milan, at the head of a demonstration of proletarians and beaming peasants. They have just left the Duomo, the city’s cathedral, where we wonder what on Earth could they be doing. The Great Helmsman is amazed and a little annoyed to find Arishima Takeo and Dazaï Osamu at the door, since these Japanese novelists are very far removed from socialist realism. Despite their aesthetic and ideological disagreements, everything is nevertheless going remarkably well when a multitude of comic strip heroes and heroines – warlike, brightly coloured and visibly angry – swoops down from the sky. There are even several man-eating monsters, but Erró takes control and they agree not to overstep their bounds. Thus far, he knows how to reassure two of Picasso’s bathers, frightened to see an Alitalia plane flying so low and hearing the roar of several fighter bombers of the US Air Force. To make the bathers laugh, he introduces them to some Walt Disney characters, who immediately start running around with no respect for either the nudity of the Léger ladies or the glory of the great men. The new arrivals claim they were invited by Joan Miró, even though nobody saw him entering but who is well and truly present, hiding somewhere in the background.

So there we have it, an Erró exhibition, made up of incongruous encounters, crowds of people colliding or mingling, celebrities side-by-side with fantasy creatures and paragons of beauty escaped from art museums confronted with beauties straight out of comic strip albums. Sometimes, when there are too many people on the canvas, Erró is forced to re-establish order and, to succeed in this task, he has an infallible solution. He deploys a grid pattern which resembles a net with a flexible mesh. Each and every character finds their place in this pattern, by origin, affinity or curiosity: thus, the great merit of this collage lies in its capacity of organization. A freer arrangement is possible when there are fewer people on the canvas, due to juxtaposition by mutual agreement if we can call it that.

So there we have it, an Erró exhibition is a derivative of history and geography, global geopolitics and the media economy, as well as literature and painting. And, in this way, it resembles very closely our own world, with its superabundance, its chaos, its disasters, and its madness.

Philippe Dagen

Article published on the occasion of the exhibition Erró chez Carré, Maison Louis Carré, 17 September – 27 November 2016