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Flags as Art

Last modified: 2003-08-16 by phil nelson
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[Raynard flag art] contributed by Olivier Touzeau
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After our recent discussion about the stripped flags of Buren in Paris, let's have a look at the work of another rather famous french artist, Jean-Pierre Raynaud. I knew him until now for his works on plant pots (especially a golden one in front of modern art center Georges-Pompidou in Paris), but it seems that flags too have been inspiring him. I found articles (with images) :

- at about his soviet flags in an exhibition in Paris in 2001 (see below)
- and at about a cuban flags series, commented like this : "For thi

s work the artist was awarded one of four UNESCO prizes. The jury's decision, with Pierre Réstany as presiding judge, can hardly have been determined by artistic considerations ... At least most people with whom we spoke in Havana agreed that it was one of the dullest works of the entire Biennial."

I also saw somewhere else an exhibition by Raynaud with french flags.

Here is an attempt to translate the first article at Note the rather stupid commentary about the history of the USSR flag: it looks like they believed that the flags of the SSRs (which are the flags that can be seenn at were historical USSR flags prior to the one I enclose here in my e-mail.

"For the first time at the Gallery Jerome de Noirmont, which is the only habilitated to represent him from now on, Jean-Pierre Raynaud will reveal his series of flags of the ex-Soviet Union in an exhibition entitled 'Under Tension', where about fifteen different Soviet flags will be presented. The climax of this exhibition will be without any doubt the work entitled Soviet Union, an impressive part made up of nine flags emblematic of the ex Soviet Union. In this new work, the flag leaves the domain of politics to gebecome a work of art, by the simple fact that it is chosen by the artist and is tended on a frame. "Tended, energized, [flags] deliver to the glance what they are. With this gesture, they become Raynaud objects and I take care not to not make any other intervention." However, in spite of his smoothness of aspect and because it preserves all its integrity, the flag of Raynaud cannot in any case be seen like a picture : it remains a true object, a "Raynaud". The force of Raynaud is to stay at the first degree of these manufactured objects. For this reason, the flag is an eloquent enough object in itself to make any other artistic intervention superfluous. Raynaud chooses to simply insert it "in the domain of art". By its political and historical symbolic system, the flag is certainly one of the objects which raises most passion for any individual, because in charge of emotions. It is difficult to unpoliticize, to unpassionate it, it is however the bet of Raynaud. This work is not in a critical dimension, it is an artistic appropriation where each flag is considered at the same level, in a total neutrality: "I am very conscious that I take an object which comes from the politics but, insofar as this object becomes artistic, one must accept that it is lived through my glance of artist" For the first time, Raynaud presents flags which are not actual any more, since the bursting of the Soviet Union in 1991. Taking into account their history, some flags are whole, others are only fragments, that Raynaud, faithful to its principle of integrity, also presents like fragments, simply tended on frame. The Soviet flag has changed a lot before finding its ultimate form, and was declined in distinct alternatives which one finds in the exhibition with the recurring hammer and sickle, the communist star and the revolutionary red, closely related to our History, which are strong aesthetic symbolic items. These flags summarize, with a considerable saving in means, the ideas and strong feelings that are universal and deeply anchored in our unconscious collective. "the flag became the new prototype of the language of Raynaud: a timeless work of art whose cultural dimension transcends the political symbology in the same object. The entry in art of the object-flag releases it from the vicissitudes of the History attached to the national symbol".

Olivier Touzeau, 10 October 2002 raynaud.jpeg saved as flag-ray.jpg