From 13 November 2004 to 29 January 2005, the Jousse Entreprise Gallery will be paying tribute to the talent of Georges Jouve (1910-1964), the most emblematic of France's postwar ceramicists.
In this retrospective bringing together a hundred or so outstanding pieces, the Jousse Gallery focuses on the artist's creative range, with special emphasis on the 1950s.
The ceramicist Georges Jouve was born out of the Second World War. After brilliant studies at the Ecole Boulle and the Jullian Academy, Jouve became an interior decorator. He took refuge in Dieulefit during the Occupation, which is where the profession which would be his throughout his life began, dictated by the vicissitudes of the war. Back in Paris, Jouve forged friendships with other decorators, among them Paule Marrot, Jacques Adnet, and Mathieu Matégot. A variety of ceramics, typical in its decorative richness of the 1940s, emerged from the workshop on rue de la Tombe-Issoire. This was the period of mirrors of Baroque elegance, and "Bacchuses" in lascivious poses transformed into arms for lights. In those years, Jouve approached his pieces in a monumental way, as illustrated by this one-off model of a panoramic table shown in Helsinki in 1948. This table with its sundial motif, one of the major pieces in the exhibition, shows by its very making the incredible dexterity of Georges Jouve, and the accomplished osmosis of his gifts as both potter and sculptor. The exhibition will also be showing several major pieces from the late 1940s: a generous pitcher form becomes "Bluebeard", "Woman Tits" and "Woman-Gardener". This witty wink co-exists with squat-shaped baluster vases. The relief décors modelled in the depth of the clay unleash a rich polychromy on black grounds, as illustrated by the "Cock" vase. Little by little the motif became simpler, just laid on a previously delimited flat surface, like the series of "serviette" décors, here illustrated by several "Bull" vases. The 1950s, which are well represented by the Jousse Gallery, were, for the ceramicist, a decade of busy activity. Jouve's collaborations with the best interior designers of the day led to happy encounters: for his friend, the decorator Mathieu Matégot, he produced ceramic works to accompany the latter's famous perforated sheet-metal furniture, as illustrated by the important series of well-known "Matégot" ashtrays shaped like bear's paws.
When Georges Jouve's vocabulary came into contact with those modernity-conveying worlds and movements, it became more radical. Whether anthropomorphic, zoomorphic or abstract, his work, enhanced by beautiful black enamel, was reinterpreted in blueprints. Some ceramics from this period opted for free forms, especially with the series of "banana" ashtrays, and those stemmed vases which he produced in different colours.
In the abundant and varied production of those years, two-tone combinations and punctuations of bright colours hallmarked large square and rectangular dishes, and stylized décors were ringed with black on white grounds. Jouve also had fun harking back to more figurative values, like this series of two-tone jugs called "Owls". The year 1954 marked a decisive stage in the Jouve family's life. He decided to set up home at Le Pigonnet in the countryside near Aix-en-Provence. Carrying things on from the years spent in Paris, new research led the ceramicist to design a whole series of wall lights called "Lyre", "Butterfly", "Bone", and "Top". (More austere and architectural pieces would follow, which are also the most finished in terms of the balance of volumes, as shown by these rare pieces titled "Reel" and "Top"). But this formal simplification did not remove Jouve from the repertory of useful, utilitarian forms. This return to the usual and functional object took shape in serial form with the cylinder vases, models sold at the Steph Simon Gllery alongside works by Charlotte Perriand, Jean Prouvé, Serge Mouille, and Isamo Noguchi. These cylindrical forms were echoed in several 1955 series called "Sea Urchins", "Pebbles", "Balls", and "Bottles", all oriented towards a Japanese-inspired aesthetic intentionally breaking with symmetry so as to express, in a stable form, the moving and dynamic reality of life. These models with their dazzling colours, all well represented in the show, announced the following decade of visual work to come
Georges Jouve died at the early age of 54. This exhibition will help us to rediscover this inventor of incomparable forms, a demiurge, no less, whose oeuvre illustrates a real modernity.