The forty or so works exhibited at galerie Jordan/Seydoux Berlin revisit forty years of history, creation, and serigraphies produced by L’Atelier Eric Seydoux. Founded in Paris in 1974, L’Atelier collaborated with several generations of artists and published over 180 silkscreen prints, books, or unique pieces, until Eric Seydoux’s death in 2013.
It was in fact at L’Atelier that Bernard Jordan (who had pieces produced by Eric Seydoux and exhibited the editions published by Seydoux in his gallery) met Amélie Seydoux - who helped her father in his workshop from time to time - a meeting which would eventually give rise to their Berlin gallery. Thus, this exhibition provides the opportunity to discover a man, his friendships, a technique and a whole section of contemporary art history in France.
Serigraphy is a Child’s game. Invented in China in the 10th century, the process begins by placing a stencil onto a fine silk screen. The screen is placed onto paper, then ink is pressed through the fabric, only reaching the paper in the places that were not blocked off by the stencil. (The stencil on the screen must therefore be a negative, in order to produce a positive on the paper). Imagine a colander with some of the holes blocked, allowing water to pass through only in selected places. This action can be repeated again and again, using multiple stencils, different colours, adapted and transformed. In the 19th century this technique became popular in America, and after WW2, American soldiers brought it to Europe, having replaced the fragile silk with nylon, just like with stockings. But whilst serigraphy allows us to print posters, stickers or t-shirts quickly, it is also - for big children - an art.
In May 1968, whilst the streets of Paris were in revolution, political posters blossomed all over the city. Produced by the Atelier Populaire des Beaux-Arts de Paris, they were beautiful attacks on Charles de Gaulle, the police force, or the Bourgeoisie in general. Eric Seydoux, born in 1946, was obviously in on this - he had lived in New York between 1962 and 1966 and therefore knew all about the richness and the potential of serigraphy (think of Andy Warhol, who made it his preferred medium for an entire career). Above all, he knew that whatever was designed that afternoon could be printed that night and put up the following morning. He actively participated in and brought his savoir-faire to this pirate silkscreen-printing workshop set up in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. With all its political discussions and technical improvisations, it was a creative commotion which advocated teamwork.
Obviously, after the revolution, life goes on. Eric Seydoux installed a printing press in the workspace of French artist Guy de Rougemont and founded L’Atelier in 1974, in collaboration with Jack Pesant. The young artists he encountered in May 68 followed (Cueco, Fromanger, Buraglio…) and in the 80’s - a time when comics obtained the status of “8th art” - Eric Seydoux collaborated with Loustal, Floc’h, Willem, Chaland, Mattotti, and Crumb. This was the era where the magazine (À SUIVRE) revived Hergé’s precious ligne claire while adding a novelistic dimension. The comic book grew up. It was also the time where graphic artists (for example Kiki Picasso) blurred the lines between genres and found themselves illustrating the daily press and tv credits as much as they produced silkscreen prints or designed successful record sleeves.
At the end of the 80’s, Eric Seydoux made a natural return to contemporary art, this time not to start a revolution, but to produce editions. This in itself connotes a political and social commitment: a numbered and signed serigraphy is an artwork, however due to the production and reproduction processes, it costs less and democratises art. This was also an experimental period for Eric Seydoux: using industrial inks, unexpected media (zinc with Vincent Barré, Priplak with François Morellet, glass with Corinne Laroche), and printing unique pieces (with Monique Frydman, Bernard Moninot or Jef Gravis). Artists are rarely stuck for ideas and, once they meet someone who plays their game, the result is inevitably fascinating.
Eric Seydoux produced and distributed artworks for forty years - on top of his screen printing qualities, he published and exhibited his workshop’s productions at different contemporary art fairs. Once again, it is a question of commitment and liberty. Commitment, because one must take financial risks to produce and exhibit. Liberty, because the artistic choices and directions always came down to Eric Seydoux. We too often forget that artists rarely work alone. Photographers have their preferred printer, musicians have their sound engineer, film directors have their cameraman… Christophe Cuzin, Pol Bury, Pierre Buraglio, Paul Cox, Frédérique Lucien, Imi Knoebel or Shirely Jaffe found in Eric Seydoux a brother in arms, and the Berlin exhibition will be an occasion for the discovery of both his aesthetic taste and his artistic friendships.
Thibaut de Ruyter
English translation Lucy Smith