Weighty Grace

Valerie Goodman Gallery
Feb 21, 2017 9:08PM

               Jacques Jarrige works in bronze by Claudia Steinberg

In the anatomy of a handmade object, the skin also holds its memory: every gesture an artist, designer, or builder once applied to its surface is remembered ¾ and articulated: that, Jacques Jarrige believes, is how an artifact tells the history of its own making. The surface counts the blows of the hammer and the hours of sandpaper smoothing the object’s face. By bestowing small eternities onto ordinary materials, the Parisian sculptor and designer brings industrial products back into the realm of the personal: with his small hand-tools, he turns sheets of plywood into such energetic lines and cut aluminum into such lively bands that they seem to forget their machine-made origin.


But since the mid-nineteen-eighties, Jacques Jarrige has also worked with bronze, generally considered a natively more soulful and historically more noble material than the industrially sourced matter he tends to use. “Bronze is actually not such a rich material ¾ certainly not like gold,” says Jarrige, whose esthetic is much obliged to the tension between arte povera materials and his disproportionate investment of labor. “The magic of bronze resides in the process ¾ the fire, the liquid metal pouring into the mold, its solidification. When I work with wood, it demands to be sculpted: there is a great tension. Bronze is more indirect, more mystical. In the finished piece, I can feel the reduction of all its stages into the one object.”


Equally magical to the alchemy of its creation ¾ and even more important to Jacques Jarrige’s desire to animate his pieces ¾ is the patina that time breathes onto bronze: to him, tarnish is proof of the object’s vitality. He grew up with two small, beloved Rodin sculptures, and he took from this master of the bronze the advice to reproduce “all that vibrates on the surface: spirit, soul, love, passion ¾ life.” So a three-legged stool that meets the ground with sharp precision, even as it rises into a softly triangular body, wears the organic, changing skin of natural patina ¾ a prized surface, released from the artist’s hands: “It feels like going deep into the material, discovering its truth.” The inner selves of his lamps and andirons will eventually leak through their gold-plated surface ¾ “They cry,” says Jarrige, using the common anthropomorphic term for the oxidation process that seems so appropriate for these abstracted, archaic female shapes that call to mind Archipenko, Moore, or Picasso.


While Jarrige is attracted to the mutable surface of bronze, he also admires its durability: early on, the small statuettes of West Africa impressed him with their stoic intensity, condensed power, and aura of immortality. “History attracts me, the presence of time stored in an object,” he says. Even as decorative objects, some of his darkly gleaming lamp-bases and candlesticks carry some of that severe density, a sumptuous darkness. Occasionally he combines two different finishes in one piece, such as his vessel-shaped lamp, whose coppery interior glows through openings in its black shell. Some of his high-legged desks are marked with dotted gleaming spots that evoke exotic creatures. Their perceived light-footedness belie their considerable weight and bring to mind one of Jacques Jarrige’s favorite artists: “The essence of a sculpture must enter on tip-toe,” Jean Arp insisted, “as light as animal footprints in the snow.” Such grace can be true for furniture too, at least when they are built like thoroughbreds.



Jacques Jarrige - small table in bronze 

Valerie Goodman Gallery