11 March > 09 April 2016

2 Av. Matignon, 75008 Paris


Philippe Hiquily, who died in 2013, occupies an emblematic place in the history of sculpture in the second half of the 20th century. 
In the legacy of Julio González he opted for metal and direct cutting, the assembly of sheet metal by autogenous welding to create a language that makes him one of the most innovative artists of his generation. From his hiquily universe anchored in a desiring sublimation of the woman was born an identity style of a subversive poetry which rejects the canonical processes and experiments thanks to new machines as the Kraftformer, all the plastic and expressive wealth concealed by the iron, the sheet of steel recovered, rusted and patinated in the phosphoric acid then waxed, the chromed brass, the aluminum, until the bronze from the years 1980. Mythical as well as visionary, his sculpture remains disturbingly topical. Alain Jouffroy detects there "the erotic reality". Timeless, his sculpture sticks closely to our time. The rigor is a driving force of his work where poetry is combined with a constant irony and a caustic humor. Under the action of a corrosive and permanent inventiveness he renews the ambiguous forms of his modern goddesses immediately recognizable. His Venuses and Lolitas trap us in their apparently innocent game. Their metamorphosis into objects of desire triggers an ambivalence of the myth of Eros underlying an aggressive and tender eroticism and defuses the hypocrisy of a castrating morality. With a seductive and bewitching force, his sculpture reverses the roles. Of "object-mother" the woman becomes "object-woman". She instrumentalizes an iconology where she passes from the status of mythical mater to that of religious mantis, from the matricial function to the devouring seduction. It is this freedom of expression and a desire for independence that kept Hiquily away from aesthetic groups, both surrealist and abstract.  A maverick, a lover of life and sculpture, a blacksmith cultivating hedonism, a disillusioned adventurer but filled with wonder by an unfulfilled creative power, this artisan adventurer of art has passed through the initiatory stages and let his imagination wander, inseparable from reality, served by a craft admirably mastered, between control and improvisation. It all started at the Beaux-Arts school in Paris in 1948 in the workshops of Janniot and Gimond where he met César, Albert Féraud, Michel Guino, who also chose metal. Hiquily left the Beaux-Arts in 1953 with a sculpture prize. A stage with Germaine Richier, "the initiator", for whom he created original pedestals, gave him the green light. A first solo exhibition in Paris in 1955, followed by New York where recognition and success awaited him in 1959, the year he received the Prix de la Critique, and in 1961. Since 1954 he has worked in his studio on rue Raymond Losserand, which he kept until 1998. His career has been marked by achievements and experimental daring (the Phototypes from a video synthesizer to capture images in prints on canvas in the 1970s) and his curiosity, always on the alert, reactivates a creative process that very quickly sets him apart from his colleagues. From childhood, with a Hellenist father, the emotional shock in front of archaic Greek art is profound. It will draw its sources of inspiration like the irreversible adoption of the simplification of the masses. To the Cycladic hieraticism answers the symbolic schematism of the Venus of Lespugne discovered in the museum of the Man.  Between an eloquent stylization, a deliberate primitivism and an equivocal symbolism emerge the Hiquilyan creatures: a tiny head surmounts enormous breasts like shells, prominent buttocks.  Or again, perched on stilts these oblong anthropomorphic forms, in mutation, endowed with mandibles, appendages with enigmatic functions, refer to the insect kingdom and suggest significant sexual symbols. Then the movement invites itself for a dialogue with the space, as any sculpture requires. He is indebted to Calder, whom he met at the Deux Magots, for this improbable and magical balance of opposites that he sets up. The introduction of motors that are now an integral part of his sculptures is one of the answers given to his desire to reconcile art and life by relying on the mechanism, a sign of jubilant freedom. In 1956, Man on a Bicycle was purchased by the National Museum of Modern Art. Like the ready-made for Marcel Duchamp, his sculpture often starts with an object that reactivates the surprise. In the eighties, the aerial postures of his hiquilybrists are the interpreters of "pirouettes" and "galipettes". Funambulists in games of weightlessness and rocking, their interventionist approach, reaches the point of absolute balance, a decade later. At the beginning of the Sixties, a new evolution is outlined with the use of a Kraftformer which makes it possible to bulge the sheet, already planed with a hammer.   Hollow, flat or round forms answer each other in a formal simplification no longer stylized, but in favor of a claimed primitivism having reached a particular tension. The irreverence is in phase with the aggressiveness of the forms. In 1966, Hiquily substituted iron for polished brass, which lends itself to a honey-colored patina, due to the difficulties of finding rusty sheet metal.  Twenty years later his meeting with the merchant Patrice Trigano led to a series of bronze editions, cast by Régis Bocquel.  Teasing, mischievous, facetious figures, these little women change their skin with sensual patinas, turquoise blue, brown or black, to which the sculptor brings particular care. Standing out from a perfectly smooth and flamboyant surface, the Lilliputian head, the graceful members, arms and legs and legs like bent stems are constitutive of an aesthetic perfectionism which does not hide an existential mystery. Eros caught up by Thanatos? Hiquily denounces unceasingly the conformism. The raw postures or pretended such are an integral part of his dialectic. For Jean-Jacques Lebel, accomplice of his second happening in 1962 gallery Daniel Cordier (the first one was held two years earlier gallery of the Quatre Chemins with among others André Pieyre de Mandiargues, Marie-Laure de Noailles and Tinguely) " the exhibition aims at becoming the metaphor   of the consumer society", "to conjure the spirit of catastrophe (...) it is necessary to deliver itself to an exorcism". In 1964 the order of a pedestal table for Marie-Laure de Noailles provokes the orders of furniture of Henry Samuel. From prototypes to later published creations, the functional character of these tables, pedestals, mirrors, floor lamps, is inflected with a dreamlike touch. Rebus ? To look for the woman. Its pop goddesses have conquered their letters of nobility. They travel today until China. The Marathoniennes and Epicuriennes have joined the Girouettes Marbella, the first of the monumental sculptures inaugurated in 1963 and destined to be published in different sizes. With the 1% commissions, Hiquily gives social meaning to sculpture, integrated into urban life. In 2000 he returned to hammered iron with the figure of the mythical and frontal woman, with flat volumes. The paintings on tapas (inspired by his stays in Tahiti) take up again these forms cut out of the metal, of devouring women, transposition of the expectation in desire. This tutelary image of the woman, double and enigmatic, eternal is the archetype of our society. She identifies a unitary path with a will to inscribe her sculpture in time. Philippe Hiquily has made her universal. 
Lydia Harambourg   




Philippe HIQUILY, 2016




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