Jean Genet?s words in the studio of Alberto Giacometti open our eyes to what unites the work of Maryan and of Germaine Richier: they discover a ?secret wound?, the same violence, the same mute scream.
After World War II, a wave of abstraction unfurled (lyrical, geometric, minimalist, and so on) but very quickly ? countering Ludwig Wittgenstein?s expression: ?Concerning that which we cannot speak, we must remain silent? ? another path was affirmed, although it remained more confidential. Far from this informal art that strives to bury humanity in the depths of its matter (cf. Jean Fautrier), solitary attempts arise and are organised to reveal barbarism (Dmitrienko, Music, Jorn, Dubuffet, or Guston in the United States). What cannot be said must absolutely not be silenced. It must be written about or drawn about.
This was how, from 1971 onwards, at the invitation of his American psychoanalyst, Maryan, a deported Polish Jew found half-dead among corpses, survived the death marches with his body riddled with bullets and came to fill nine notebooks with four hundred and seventy eight captioned drawings that he entitled Ecce homo. It is no longer a question of stating or describing the horror, but of recognising the bodies, our bodies.
Bodies stripped bare, soiled, beaten, and humiliated. Faceless heads, deprived of the gaze of Maryan?s Personnages, which vomit their guts up to decry the horror and traumatic experience of the camps. Figures reduced to their organs whose gaping mouths produce the terror of Francis Bacon?s Crucifixions. The coarseness ? despite its refinement ? of the colourful watercolours clashes with the dark and naïve sag of the crudely drawn members. It elicits disgust mixed with fascination, full of the vital energy emanating from it.
The faceless body of L?Orage and its female equivalent L?Ouragane sculpted by Germaine Richier that, immediately after the war, manifest a primitive, brute, and unsettling force. Humans whose matter has been ?long martyrised where, since the first clay, down to the final metal, Germaine Richier has endlessly filed, stabbed, gnawed, amputated, and grafted. Tremendously impassioned work.?
Juxtaposed, these artworks dialogue through the lively tension that animates them and that relies on a troubling contrast: barbarism and the wound are presented with a degree of bawdiness. The expression of bestiality and violence is presented through a playful, naïve, and popular iconography. The tormented sculptures of Germaine Richier assume an allegorical and fantastical character and ? notably the Diabolo ? borrow from the circus world. Maryan?s garish watercolours ridicule the figures of power and judgement and stage crowned heads resembling buffoons and masquerades.
But if we look beyond an expressionistic reading, we do find silence. The silence of humanity, abandoned and alone.