From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Jean-Jacques Lebel (born 1936) is a French painter, artist, and scholar. With his book Le Happening, the Paris Festival of Free Expression and shows such as 120 minutes dédiées au divin Marquis, he was one of the first practitioners of happenings in 1960s Europe.
Life and work
Lebel had his first exhibition in 1955 at Galleria Numero in Florence, Italy. After a brief period of time with Surrealists, Lebel exhibited in Milan and Paris, and then went on to exhibit at various museums and galeries around the world. He has regularly collaborated with artist and writer Arnaud Labelle-Rojoux.
Beginning in 1955, Lebel published a poetry journal called Front Unique and organized various nomadic poetry festivals, such as La Libre Expression (Free Expression) in 1964 and Polyphonix in 1979. In the 1960s, Lebel translated into French and published various work by William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gregory Corso.
In 1960, Lebel oversaw and partook in the first European Happening L'enterrement de la Chose in Venice. For his performance there - called Happening Funeral Ceremony of the Anti-Process - Lebel invited the audience to attend a ceremony in formal dress. In a decorated room within a grand residence, a draped 'cadaver' rested on a plinth which was then ritually stabbed by an 'executioner' while a 'service' was read consisting of extracts from the French décadent writer Joris-Karl Huysmans and le Marquis de Sade. Then pall-bearers carried the coffin out into a gondola and the 'body' - which was in fact a mechanical sculpture by Jean Tinguely - was ceremonially slid into the canal.
Lebel published the first critical essay in French on the Happening movements throughout the world, citing the 1920 Dada-Messe (First International Dada Fair) as the key precedent of the modern happening in Europe. After this, he produced over 70 Happenings, performances and actions on numerous continents, including Pour conjurer l'esprit de catastrophe (1962), Déchirex (1965) and 120 minutes dédiées au divin marquis (1966). In 1967 he staged in Gassin at the Festival de la Libre Expression Pablo Picasso's 1941 surrealist theatrical farce in six acts Le Désir attrapé par la queue (Desire Caught by the Tail).
In 1968, Lebel took part in the activities of Mouvement du 22-mars, followed by Noir et Rouge, an anarchist group, and the Socialist splinter group Informations et Correspondences Ouvrières. Lebel also followed the philosophical teachings of Gilles Deleuze at Faculty de Vincennes at Paris 8 University. 1980 Lebel organized a Performance Festival at the ARC - Musée d'Art Moderne, Paris, amongst others with Harry de Kroon, Julien Blaine, Joel Hubaut and Barbara Heinisch. With François Pain he produced the 90 minute long Monument à Félix Guattari, le film and in 1994 he installed a large assemblage entitled Monument à Félix Guattari in the Forum of the Centre Pompidou.
Since 2001 he has frequently exhibited his Manifestation Itinérante and his digital art morphing animation Reliquaire pour un culte de Vénus that is based on the concept of vénusté as put forward by Pierre Klossowski.
In 2001, he was the guest curator at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts of the erotic work of Pablo Picasso called Picasso Erotique and appeared on the Charlie Rose show. The exhibition traveled to the Museu Picasso in Barcelona and Galerie nationale du jeu de paume in Paris. A book entitled Picasso Erotique was produced by Prestel Publishing in 2001 as a result of the show. This book contains texts by Lebel, Pablo Picasso, Annie Le Brun, Pascal Quignard, Patrick Roegiers and Malen Gual.
In 2009 La Maison Rouge in Paris presented all facets of Lebel's work (artist, exhibition curator, writer, performer, and art festival organizer) in an exhibition entitled Jean-Jacques Lebel, Soulvements. The exhibition was divided into the following themes: Happenings, Insubordination, Poetry, Hallucination, Eros, Dada, War and the Rhizome - and was illustrated with works of primitive art, works by anonymous artists and others such as Johann Heinrich Füssli, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Louise Michel, Fourier, Ravachol, Guillaume Apollinaire, Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, Otto Dix, George Grosz, André Breton, Francis Picabia, Antonin Artaud, Victor Brauner, Bernard Heidsieck, Erró, Antonio Saura, and Peter Saul. Some three hundred works in all. The show curator was Jean de Loisy.
- Festival of Free Expression
- Sade / Surreal
- Wet Dream Film Festival
- Jardin de Eros
- Le Désir attrapé par la queue
- 120 minutes dédiées au divin Marquis