Revue Faire No. 4 (A communication: invitation cards by the artist Stanley Brouwn)
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In the fourth issue of Revue Faire [To Look at Things], Céline Chazalviel writes about the invitation cards of elusive artist Stanley Brouwn. Born in 1935 in Surinam, Brouwn died in 2017 in Amsterdam after a career centered around performance and conceptual art that purposely effaced the artist himself. Since 1972, every catalogue or group exhibition Brown participated in featured a text: “At the request of the artist there are no photo or bio-bibliographical data” or “At the artist's request, his birth date is excluded here, and the works are not reproduced“, or some variation. Brouwn refused to give interviews, and portraits were extremely rare.
If we can attribute to Brouwn a desire to dissociate his artistic practice from who he was while at the same time exacting full control over his image and that of his work, we can also divine that his intention was to focus the public's attention fully on his exhibitions. By requiring all communications related to his exhibitions to keep to the same standards, using lowercase type and a specified typeface exclusively, with no images of the works in the show—coupled with his refusal to allow commentary on his work or interviews—Brouwen built his identity by way of ellipses. Since his participation in documenta 5 (1972), the stories linked to this attitude combined to produce a specific artistic posture. The invitation cards for his solo exhibitions provide a symptomatic example: set almost exclusively in Helvetica, with only the artist's name, with the absence of uppercase, flying in the face of the graphic identity of the gallery or the host institution, they seem impossible to date, give or take twenty years.
The invitations reveal that graphic and typographic choices created one of the spaces of neutrality built by Brouwn, like other artists and theoreticians of his generation, and generations that came after. According to one of the positions of Sol Lewitt, “conceptual artists are more mystical than rationalist,” and the case of Brouwn gives weight to this idea. Chazalviel traces Brouwn's career, and provides a contemporary lens on this important artist, drawing upon his relationship with Fluxus and Zero, interrogating his artistic remove, and sketching out his relationship with Experimental Jetset's practice.
Revue Faire, launched in 2017, is a regularly published critical publication dedicated to the analysis of graphic design, with a particular focus on France, and a broader focus on graphic design in Europe. Each year, 15 bilingual (French and English) 20-page issues are planned to be published. The series, curated by Sacha Léopold and François Havegeer, works with various invited authors; each issue documents a unique, tentacular subject of interest to graphic designers.
Designed and edited by Sacha Léopold and François Havegeer with Kévin Lartaud
Published by Éditions Empire, 2017
In English and French
Softcover, 20 pages, staple binding, full color, 8.5 × 11.75 inches