In his first exhibition in New York City after an aborted attempt more than forty years ago, Claude Rutault finally displays his unique body of intriguing conceptual paintings and installations at Galerie Perrotin. Rutault, a painter who does not paint his own pieces, or even take part in overseeing the construction of the pieces, operates as an instigator of ideas and sets of rules that translate into a full concept, and eventually a final piece.
Rutault works by giving out what he calls “de-finition/methods” that the gallery or institution, the “charge-taker”, will create and build, or “actualize” as he likes to say, making the installation staff an integral part of the work. These employees impact the work in multiple ways as they are also in charge of choosing the color of the work, relying in part on their own aesthetic appreciation. This is in opposition to the artist operating as the finishing hand, that signs the work off even in cases where he didn’t actually make the work himself. The intricate set of rules put the current “charge-taker” of the work in a position of responsibility, rarely seen in relation to the making of the art itself.
The real work takes place within the original conditions of each piece. Rutault is quite explicit in that the work itself does not matter. It can be moved and changed depending on what affects it in real time. He instigates and guides the piece’s existence existence as long as he can through specific sets of rules, but will let go once he cannot go further. This conceptual approach defines some of the variables included in the making and selling of art, a witty comment from an artist flying under the radar of the New York art world for many decades.
As the viewer navigates the show, the pre-fabricated nature of the work seems to initially undermine the conceptual elegance that justifies its existence, until an appreciation of the work’s varying layers is allowed to unfold. While defining the original set of rules by which the work is made, Rutault also adds a series of rules for what happens to the work after its is sold. In the piece ““de-finition/method #600. “charity begins with others””, for example, the artist establishes that the work can be bought only if the ““charge-taker” donates three of the five circular canvases to three different charities, each of which is then free to sell the work as it chooses; while the charge-taker, for his part, must display the remaining two paintings beside a photograph of the entire work (all five canvases).”
Furthering the life, purpose and concept of the piece even after it has left the institution, studio or gallery context is a trademark of Rutault’s. Other work, for example, requires the pieces to be sold at the same price as the square footage of the building it is shown in or to be buried with the buyer when he passes away.
The exhibition will remain on view at Galerie Perrotin in New York City through January 3rd , 2014.