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Jean-Michel Alberola (b. 1953) is a kind of mystery man of French painting – which he constantly turns into a dialogue with myriad other media, from film to playing cards. An instructor at the Ecole nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris who entered the Collection Societe Generale in 2000, Alberola tends to shy away from the press; he only rarely gives interviews. So we have to sift through those that he has given even more closely, hoping to find hints that will help us grasp this complex oeuvre which disfigures the face to raise it to the level of idea. Whether he's methodically copying Titian (as at the start of his career), painting murals or juxtaposing the French word rien (“nothing”) against a skull in red neon lights, the artist mixes words and images in crazed couplings. In his work, fragments rule, associations are fleeting, quotations come from eclectic sources – Bob Dylan alongside Rimbaud and Marx. Thought emerges as destabilised as it is fertilised. Katell Jaffres, the curator of his solo exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo from 19 February to 16 May 2016, tells us about the artist and his work in the form of a glossary.

“Indeed, the title of the Palais de Tokyo exhibition, L’Aventure des Détails – ‘The Adventure of Details’ – emphasises the importance of details in Jean-Michel Alberola's work. Each work is a detail, and a collection of details creates an adventure. Meaning comes out of the connections that reside between them. That's how words work. In this way, our days are details from the perspective of passing years”.

“Alberola's works are the result of a collection of connections. The works also connect among themselves. This creates an ‘adventure of details’”.

“Alberola has made two short films, notably La vie de Manet in 1983, and two feature-length documentaries, Koyamaru, l’hiver et le printemps in 2009 and Koyamaru, l’été et l’automne in 2010.
Film nurtures, feeds his work. The strength of film resides in its narrative power: how to tell a fictional story starting from reality”.
“Alberola is a painter who manipulates both concepts and colour. Creating a piece is the formal accomplishment of an idea. For Alberola, there's the painting and everything that happens around it at the same time: doing drawings and prints, but also reading and film”.
“Using words is central to Alberola's work. He formulates statements like ‘"La Parole ne pas" ("The word not") or "La fluidité de l’échange enfantin n’a plus court" ("The flow of childish banter is over"). He also highlights quotations from Kafka or Stevenson, for example,  which asks the viewer to stretch out the feeling emanating from them. Alberola also makes direct references to historical figures, intellectuals, artists, etc.”
“Alberola has completed many murals. In 2012, he designed La Salle des Instructions – ‘Instructions Room’ – at the Palais de Tokyo, which was made up of a group of murals spread out through the entirety of the space. Colour was associated with the designs and the instructions, such as ‘Air out the golden age’, ‘Group lighting’ or ‘Becoming a grain of sand’”.
“Alberola has completed several limited editions, such as the playing card 11 de Cœur (‘11 of Hearts’) or the dice numbered from 2 to 7, titled Après Robert Filliou. Producing objects or printed editions, like prints themselves, enables the spread of ideas”.
King of nothing
“The painting series Le Roi de Rien – ‘The King of Nothing’ – began in 2001 and is still in progress. The masculine figure that repeats from one canvas to the next is unidentifiable, and most of the time his face is both invisible and indeterminate. These works bring up questions inherent in painting involving surface usage, the canvas and the colour palette. The titles of the works are important as they enter literally into the intention of the work”.

Jean-Michel Alberola, l'aventure des détails
Until May 16th of 2016
Palais de Tokyo
13, avenue du Président Wilson 75 116 Paris
More informations here