Inventing Color, Homage to Louis Ducos du Hauron

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Invention of Language – Text by Jean-Jacques Ader

Three colored circles are woven behind the pillars of the church. At the top of the magnificent room, they now follow the shape of the vault and continue to hunt in the air and in random ways. This is a metaphor of artistic freedom acquired by this red, this green, this blue, in the 70’s.

The installation by artist Alix Delmassibles # 3 is part of this cycle, which began with the work of Duco du Hauron and the work of his heirs, and is often found on the walls of Agen’s historical monuments. ..

This famous stranger, Louis Duco du Howron, was the inventor of color photography, even before the Lumiere brothers, who used his work to successfully develop autochrome. Originally from Langon, Louis lived in Agen until the end of his life. He is a pioneer in contemporary photography, and his work on trichromy is also the basis of digital photography.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the 100th anniversary of his death is celebrated in the form of the main exhibition “Invention of Color”. Its meaning evokes the visual language that began in the 1970s, not the invention of technology. Offering among the most enthusiastic practitioners of photographic media, it is rejected in the form of six themes that more accurately define the work of the artist presented, rather than in chronological order: invention, experiment, reification, revealing. , Selection, coloring. And the posters are pretty attractive …

Artistic guidance of François Saint-Pierre (creator of the adjacent Lectoure photographer in Gers), led by the association of the Mayor of Agen Jean Dionis du Sejour, friends of Louis Duco du Howron. Below, therefore, is an almost complete panorama of modern color photography that can be seen at the Jacobin Church, another exhibition site in the city’s museums.

At the invitation of William Eggleston’s John Zarkouki, who followed Ernst Haas at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, from the throne of color images in the art world to another pioneer, Saul Leiter, programming was done by Luigi Gili. Adventures between John Baso, who also passes through Europe, and experimenters such as Jan Gruber, Sammy Bajoli, James Welling, and Philip Duran.

Digital is represented by Constance Nouvel, Vincent Ballard, Laure Tiberghien and Julien Richaudaud in various media, optical, chemical and physical variations. From rendering or transposing the light spectrum to paper, changing the light sources of Denis Brihat and Paolo Roversi, coloring Pierre & Gilles to the Fresson process of Bernard Plossu, he agrees with black and white.

This is a free journey of photography over the last 60 years and will take you among these famous or lesser-known artists, highlighted in the magnificent architecture of Jacobins, the actual inventory of the world. I will go. The steps of innovation, autochrome, instant film, and digital images involve so many artistic adventures, experiences, innovations, and even transformations of these same processes that, when needed, bring the human mind to life. Shows inexhaustible curiosity and desire to explore.

«Inventer la couleur» Exhibition at the Jacobin Church at the Museum of Ajan from July 3rd to October 3rd, 2021 – Exhibition Catalog published by Manuela.

At the same time, the Aurillac Museum of Art and Archeology held an exhibition “76/86” focusing on the decade 1976-1986 with color photography of the same theme. Stables in the Carmes Garden from June 24th to September 19th, 2021.

Interview Francois Saint-Pierre, Curator of the exhibition “Inventer la couleur” presented at the Jacobin Church in Agen from July 3rd to October 3rd, 2021.

Interview by Jean-Jacques Ader

François Saint-Pierre was one of the historic founders of the L’été photographique de Lectoure (Gers) in 1990, followed by the art center of the same name. He oversaw it until 2014, rewarding the festival with its demanding programming and reaching far beyond rural and national borders.

JJA: Where did the initiative for the Inventing Color exhibition come from?

FSP: First of all, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the death of Louis Duco du Howron, the inventor of color photography, who died in Agen, and the association of friends of Louis Duco du Howron. Its president, Charles Salion, asked me to propose an event about contemporary photography. Several locations were considered until the mayor, Jean Dionis du Sejour, asked for an installation at the Jacobin Church dedicated to a special exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts of Agen.

JJA: Louis Duco du Howron, who lived in Agen, is not well known.

FSP: Yes, he was from Langon, but he spent most of his life here and lived in Lectur when he applied for a patent for color photography. Nevertheless, he was not a businessman, but a scholar of his own world, devoted to his research. He always struggled to make a living, and his brother, a justice of the peace, helped him support himself. His process was very complex to implement and was reserved for scientists. Omnicolor was developed and sold by the Jougla brothers after considering placing the frame on a glass plate of three primary colors. world. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, Jugra and the Lumiere Brothers merged to offer only autochrome plates, and the omnicolor disappeared.

JJA: How did you find out about his work?

FSP: I think I was invited to the L’été photographique de Lectoure in 1990 or 1991, mediated by a Swiss artist, and I was very impressed with this information at that time. .. Shortly afterwards, I visited the Museum of Fine Arts of Agen to meet the curators and asked them to look at the photo archives of Ducos du Howron, but they were not properly submitted and were not available at the time. Agen’s Town Hall and Museum supplements it with the help of Joel Petitjean of the Niepce Museum, who has done a lot of research on this subject, including purchasing other photographs. Of course, this exhibition is a creation.

JJA: The title “Invention of Color” refers to the artistic process, not the technical invention itself.

FSP: Indeed, it is a tribute to modern color photography, in the words of John Szarkowski, director of Moma’s photography department in New York, who called William Eggleston the “inventor of modern color” in 1976. I am referring to it. Photo”.

JJA: It wasn’t the first time I exhibited a color image.

FSP: No, 12 years ago, under the direction of Steichen, Ernst Haas, for example, was already invited to decorate his color photographs. It was already very bold and he was one of the first to photograph modern times, but he is considered a pioneer of modern photography like Egreston who laid the foundations taken up by modern photographers. did not. Everyday life, mediocrity, doubts about framing rules … Unfortunately, like Stephen Shore, who couldn’t participate in my programming at Moma, another representative of contemporary photography. From that point on, color photography was no longer considered vulgar, as was thought by black-and-white purists.

JJA: How was the list of artists represented?

FSP: Of course there is also a time series axis, but it is mainly based on six selected themes: invention / experiment / reification / obvious / selection / hue, and the photographer who represents it. All are subject to the time and budget constraints inherent in the exercises. We gathered people who are familiar with Egreston exhibited at Lektur and Mazdak in the Cnap collection, people who are still visiting the gallery such as Sammy Barodi, and people who are completely unknown. I did such a shopping. I tried to put together the whole range to represent the variety of suggestions of all these photographers. But what they have in common is that they are all experimenters and there is really nothing to express themselves in a documentary way.

JJA: Was digital technology as revolutionary as color compared to black and white?

FSP: It was revolutionary, but not for the same reason I think. Digital technology has facilitated and evolved the distribution of images over networks. This can be good or bad, but it does not directly affect the work of art. Talking to the artists, I realized that some of them were very happy with the new technology. For example, John Baso gave up on digital Cibachrome, thanks to pigmented inks. The same is true for Philip Duran. He discovered his image during post-production and states that the film couldn’t achieve this quality. Natalie Bourch, a photography historian and contributor to the exhibition catalog, wrote in her book, Le ciel est bleu, that some photographers rediscovered their work thanks to digital technology. Analog photography.

JJA: It may not be an exhibition for travel, mainly because of the rental of works, but what about other editions?

FSP: This is what we thought of. Ideas should be explored. The concept of inventing the language of color photography can be maintained and developed in new editions, along with other artists and other experiments. to be continued …

“Invention of Color” Exhibition from July 3rd to October 3rd, 2021

Announced by the Museum of Agen in Jacobin Church.

A beautiful exhibition catalog of Manuella éditions.

Conference “Louis Duco du Howron and Color Photography” is scheduled

From 8:00 to 17:00 on November 27, 2021, Alain Aspect’s physicist, Professor Bertrand Lavedrin of the Paris Museum, Nathalie Bleu’s historian of contemporary art, Joel Petitjan’s doctor of art history, etc. In front of many guests … Information:

https://www.ducosduhauron.com/fr/timetable/view/colloque-louis-ducos-du-hauron-et-la-photographie-couleur-un-inventeur-visionnaire-en-avance-sur-son-temps- 2? timetable_id = 12

https://www.agen.fr/en-ce-moment/agenda/exposition-inventer-la-couleur-3082.html

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