David B. at Anne Barrault Gallery
Anne Barrault Gallery, Paris
29 February – 29 March 2020
Anne Barrault Gallery presents the third exhibition of David B.
The exhibition will premiere two new sets of drawings :“the detective dead man” and “Nick Carter and André Breton: a surrealist inquiry”, which are the subjects of two books, respectively published by l’Association and Delcourt-Soleil.
A surrealist investigation
David B says there were initially two characters: the Young Detective and the Detective Dead man,whose creation coincided with the time after l’Ascension du Haut Mal, which threw the author into a state of idleness as destabilizing as morbid. “Something was dead inside me”. The Detective Dead man showed how it was difficult for him at the time (about 2014) to give an appearance to his fictitious characters. “At that point I started to turn to characters as signs, objects, and symbols”. The girl with a thousand daggers corresponds to this disembodied character. On the contrary, with her bewitching head of hair –“what is most dear to women” Eudes de Châteauroux is reported to have said – calling to mind these twelfth century ladies described by Georges Duby, she embodies a vital principle. Together or separately, they give life to playlets full of literary references, in which images and texts combine, like death and life unite the detective and the girl. The “surrealist inquiry”, Nick Carter et André Breton invites us to another interweaving of text and image, but also fiction and reality. Based on the character of a serialized novel created in 1866 by J.R. Corvell, adapted in French from 1907 onwards and praised to the skies by the Surrealists-to-be, the inquiry relates the breathtaking journey of the American detective into the life of André Breton. The chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissection table, according to David B.
Preface, David B.
Nick Carter & André Breton
Nick Carter, the great American detective, is the character of a serial story created in 1886 by the writer J.R.Coryell and published in the New York Weekly. Until the sixties, successive authors will write his adventures, which will be adapted for the theater, the cinema, comics, and translated into many countries.
In the various instalments, Nick Carter fights criminals such as Dazaar who has a hundred shapes and a thousand faces, a true evil Hydra, Doctor Quartz, the devilish physician assisted by venomous Zanoni, his faithful disciple, Moutoushimi, the Japanese spy master, a secret agent and an expert magician in illusions and apparitions.
When it was adapted in French, from 1907 on, the future members of he surrealist group, André Breton, Louis Aragon, Robert Desnos, and also Philippe Soupault discover Nick Carter who will be, along with Fantômas and Judex, one of their great references in serial literature. Soupault, in 1983, will even write a chapter entitled The death of Nick Carter.
As for Aragon and Breton, they will try, in 1928, to write and produce a four handed play, Le Trésor des Jésuites, inspired from the serial films of the series Les Vampires, directed by Louis Feuillade in 1915, in which the actress Musidora, who embodied Irma Vep, triumphed. They will engage the actress for the part of their play heroine, but time had gone by, and Musidora did no longer fit in the hotel thief costume of long ago. The tribute of the two surrealists, considered too dated, was cancelled, and Le Trésor des Jésuites will be performed only once…in Prague, in 1935.
For his part, Robert Desnos, in 1933,will write the long poem la Complainte de Fantômas, which will be adapted for the radio Ecoutez…Faites silence…La Triste Enumération… and Magritte will paint Fantômas above Paris roofs, a rose in his hand, in the posture of Rodin’s thinker.
The tributes paid by the surrealists to the serial literature of their youth would be too many to be listed. This literature, quickly written, leaving room to improvisation and most unrestrained imagination, in which commonplaces and the wildest imagination met, had everything to charm the members of the surrealist group. In it they recognized automatic writing, something of the exquisite corpse, daydreams, events looking like poetical images and sparks of the supernatural, all that André Breton cherished. This the idea came to me to associate Nick Carter, a fictitious character with André Breton, a real character in a serial and surrealist investigation, in which their two worlds mingle in the quest of what the master of the surrealist movement called the gold of time.