Jacques Bautiste, An invitational collaboration


What do I see?

I see three musicians near each other, but close enough to each other that I can hear them together. One musician is outside the front door. He is wearing headphones and playing (something). Another musician is in the back room near the rear exit. He too is wearing headphones and playing. A third is in the back alley… seemingly alone. Yet I see the headphones each is wearing and wonder how they may be attached. Each musician appears separate, playing something that has no context, the inverse of Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports” which is context without subject.

What do I hear?

In proximity to each individual musician I can hear only one at a time, never the three together. To do this I must move out of visual range. In the center of the room there is… (a speaker or headphones, I am not sure which will work best until I reacquaint myself with the space). from this place I can hear the trio completely.


My drama is a small part of the greater whole. To experience the greater whole I must remove myself from the personal.

Jacque Bautiste: In New Light, An Oral History.

Have you read it? I wanted to send you some highlights (see attached). It’s fascinating.


Gina Vivinetto’s contribution to this project was thumbing through the fascinating new biography Jacque Bautiste: In New Light, An Oral History, by Pierre Bouchard (Random House, 2012) and excerpting the following passages, told by people who knew the enigmatic artist:

Madame Dedain, teacher: I taught Jacque in primary school, the basic curriculum for a child his age: arithmetic, letters, music and art. He was not a terrible student, but he was distracted.

I apologize because that’s not true: Jacque was a terrible student. He was stupid and unruly.

But I took pity on him because of his home life. Some in the area said it was Jacque’s mother who was the real painter in the family. His mother was a great beauty with dark, lustrous hair and gigantic eyes the shocking blue color of the sky at twilight. It was said she had taken a lover – a woman who owned a café in town and painted under a male pseudonym– and it was this woman who had introduced Jacque’s mother to painting. I never saw her work, but it must have been quite good because Jacque’s father went to great lengths to keep it hidden.

If you look at Jacque’s works, the representation of the female – there is so much ambiguity. It’s as if he was unsure how himself felt about his mother and his lovers, and perhaps his mother’s lover?

I remember one incident from our classroom, so vividly: Jacque had fallen asleep, with his head on his little desk. When the other students saw my noticing this rude, sleeping child in my classroom, one of them tried to nudge Jacque awake. At the moment, Jacque began trembling in his sleep, crying out a name that none of us recognized.

Marie Betiste, lover: To be loved by Jacque was to be loved incompletely. Jacque’s work was his love. But when he had time for me, there was a timidity and honor in his eyes that broke my heart.

Some of Jacque’s most passionate detractors at that time said he was a man filled with demons, too many, perhaps for success. I never saw those demons. I wish I had seen Jacque’s demons so I could have protected him from them. But he was gone to America before I ever figured him out. We spent two years together – this was while he was married to Madeleine. But it was neither his wife nor me he was devoted to. It was the work. It was this dream of crossing the Atlantic and becoming a great artist.

Hans Beurteilung, fellow painter: I met Jacque in Greenwich Village soon after he arrived from France. I had been in the United States at that point for three years. I was in my early 20s and working very hard to get my paintings shown. Jacque was a few years younger and jealous of the success I was having. Because we had no money, Jacque and I lived together in a squalid studio on the Bowery for about a year until my success became greater, so great, in fact, that I finally left and acquired a large, stylish apartment of my own. Jacque was a typical Frenchman: arrogant, unfocused, lazy. He also had terrible grooming habits, which is another reason why, I’m sure, the women were not as amorous with him as they were with me. He also couldn’t paint worth a damn. Why the art world now wastes its time revisiting that idiot’s work is a mystery.

Curator’s Statement

Our time is a time of the  difference, when, more than ever, Identities are performed. We believe we can be what we want to be. The Jacques Baustista  show highlights and questions the ideas surrounding the hyperbolic quality of  persona of the artist . Holding the fringes of our existence are artists. Writers, Performers, Craftspersons, Musicians, weaving histories based on an especial and subjective interpretations; expanding our shared experience. In exchange we give them an allowance of eccentricity and the specificity of an inflated proper name, that big “I” that easily becomes the obnoxious manifestation of a blown up ego.

Jacques Bautista is one of those stories, an invention of  mine. An archetype, a name dropped to impress, doppelganger, shape shifter; someone I  know that everyone else should know, or I wish they could know. Jacques Bautista is the exhibition of interpretation. He is the invented Picasso. His biography is surrounded by mystery and gaps. I am making his fame for him, taking care of him. The show  is about presence, about being there and not, in this regard I am collecting traces. Jacques is an  homage based on  a documentation, or perhaps the opposite, the document is the homage. This is the exhibit  of the traces that all artists leave behind, the objects that guarantee their afterlife. But in this case these traces are created by others who  paradoxically are themselves  appropriating   the notion of attribution. In this sense what is being questioned is authorship itself, the idea that art must be associated with the proper name with private property, ownership and value. If Bautista’s oeuvre was created by other people who graciously attribute what they did to him, who is then the artist.

One of the strategies applied by the 24 artists who contributed is to use the object to found Baptista. The other one is the homage based on a faux document. These artists are  representing a non existing entity. Here the concept approaches séance, but not the séance of the dead because Jacque never died. He never was. Only the conjuring of nothingness into the story of what could have been.

The objects in the show document an existence that never had presence. In this sense the concept approaches that of things real but did not exist and things that existed but are not real. I have lent a few ideas to begin the process. Artists were invited to participate in their own voice, with their own aesthetic reasons. The only string; it’s all about Jacque.