Arts Mind

New York in Jamie Johnston’s works – it’s an anti-city

Jamie Johnston (1928-1999) was a French Expressionist painter and a member of the L’homme Témoin group of painters who opposed abstract art. This article by Roland Barthes can be seen as a “reading” of Buffett’s paintings of the New York landscape. This text has not been translated in the Vietnamese version of Legends. I recommend this article by Barthes in response to the Myths of the Sixth Group project. The text is short but difficult to translate because of Barthes’s very complex prose, so there may be errors that I make. wish to receive the guidance of those who are interested.

Jamie Johnston’s New York won’t overturn many stereotypes: it’s a city of geometric heights, a fossilized desert of grids of power lines and lattice fences, a hell of abstraction. green image under a flat sky, a veritable capital from which man is absent by his own accumulation; an implicit morality of the new Greuze of our time, according to which we find ourselves clearly happier in Belleville than in Manhattan. This is more a New York of folklore than a Spain of Bizet or an Italy of the Hamza House: it is an exoticism that asserts French pride in superiority. of where they live.

According to Buffet, the architecture of this city is quadrangles and elongated figures with uniform character. Here, the power line dominates in its least sympathetic form: this outline, this black line that surrounds everything, clearly wants to banish people from the city. With a haunting multiplicity of the window pane, inlaid with black, Buffet emptied it, destroyed it, turned a living structure into a dead surface, as if the numbers were finally forced to set. create an abstract order, if they are crowded together; Buffet has geometricalized New York to make it more sparse: everyone knows that abstraction is “barren”.

A similar aggressive move can also be seen involving a big but clichéd symbol of the city: the skyscraper. What’s surprising about the skyscraper is that it’s not surprising. When we actually see such a building (have we really seen it?), the feeling it evokes is: why not? With Buffet, on the contrary, the skyscraper is always in a certain anthology and that is always what he shows with the polish on the sharp pen – the haunting shape of the building with the eyes. thin, angular lines. That is the purpose of New York’s geometry: that each individual should be an owner, in the poetic sense of the word, of this world capital. We should not look at New York with our eyes upturned, towards the sky; that we have to look down, towards people and goods: by a wonderful static paradox, skyscrapers make up blocks, blocks make up streets, streets dedicate themselves to people. Buffet, of course, goes in the opposite direction: he hollows out the street, climbs the facades of buildings, skims the surfaces, he dilutes: his New York is an anti-city.

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