In the 1980s, the internationalization process and the intervention of the mass media in art, which began in the previous decade, it was accentuated, influencing local national situations. Even if French art is on the whole not very present outside its borders, with the exception of some prominent personalities, it nevertheless participates in the great intellectual trends that in recent years have given rise to the debate between divergent positions. The disappearance of philosophy, theory and ideologies has led to the abandonment of faith in the truth of models and the rejection of dogmas, favoring the individualist attitude, the opening to a non-modernist conception of art and a consideration of history breaking with the linearity of progress. The field of culture has expanded, incorporating popular elements,
Characteristic of the art of the Eighties is the great variety of practices and, in France in particular, the development of institutions, of the public and more recently of the art market.
For some artists, who began to work in the seventies or sixties, these were the years of maturity and their art represented a point of reference for an entire generation, whether they followed their tracks or have refused too bulky presence. These artists, at the peak of their career, are also those who enjoy the greatest international resonance in France
Buren (b. 1938), who won the Grand Prix of the Venice Biennale in 1986, is present on all fronts: he intensely wages his battle of questioning and analyzing the material and ideological conditions of the artistic system. He creates increasingly complex devices, such as Le Corridorscope in the Points de vue exhibitionheld at the ARC in Paris in 1983: they involve at the same time the place of the work – in this case the museum as an institution that conditions the visual act – and the spectator, who walks through the halls of the museum looking at what Buren wants to show. The critical function has therefore involved the global system of the work of art and the lines are only a ” visual tool ”, which from a distance recalls the critical function of the painting, object and merchandise.
In the seventies Ch. Boltanski (b.1944) had explored the game of individual and collective memory, counterfeiting the data of his real and imaginary childhood, the banal raised instead of art: small manufactured objects or rediscovered and anonymous photographs were then the materials of the work. Even the composite photographs that refer to the stereotypes of childhood activities or his world are banal. In the mid-1980s, Boltanski took on the emotional charge of history in his Monuments, without facing particular events: the photographs of children massed together and dimly lit by electric garlands are real ex-votos, which he calls Leçon de Ténèbre. The anonymity of these portraits or the piles of clothes evokes the monuments to the fallen and the ossuaries of the Holocaust in a morbid and painful way.
J.-P. Raynaud (b.1939) has also oriented his work in recent years towards the monument, always using his favorite material, the white ceramic tile, in an obsessive way, evoking aseptic places of care. If he has continued to transform his house, entirely covered in this material, into a place that represents his critical distance from our world, his work has diversified: stelae, shrines for fragile ivy leaves that need to be renew every day; alignment, in 1985, in the rooms of a museum of about fifty hospital beds, thus creating a hiatus with the museum, a place of storage of the works. The fossilization project of a residential tower of a large complex with a social purpose is an opening to the outside world and a
In 1985 Christo, who had first been close to the Nouveaux Réalistes like Raynaud, succeeded in an operation thought and planned for many years: the wrapping of the Pont Neuf in Paris, which was a success from many points of view, both from an aesthetic point of view. – thanks to a perfect realization and the choice of visually effective materials – as much as to the resonance of the work; the Parisian public was enthusiastic, interpreting it, however, more as a joke or an advertising operation than as a work of art, which wanted to draw the eye on some aspects of everyday life.
According to extrareference, Viallat (b. 1936) was a companion and member of the Support-Surface group, which at the beginning of the seventies conducted the formal, political and psychoanalytic analysis of painting and its material and ideological components. In the Eighties, having regained his freedom, he was able to express himself as a colourist and develop a pictorial world using the most varied supports, such as canvases for curtains, shirts, chair covers, doors, umbrellas. He is the heir of Matisse in color and of the great American abstract expressionism in pictorial energy, far from the figure, having adopted from the end of the sixties a form that repeats and varies indefinitely.
The end of the seventies and the beginning of the eighties were marked by a decisive inversion of the trend of painting, undeniable in the contemporary aesthetic field. If painting continues to be present under the rather abstract forms produced by Support-Surface, it becomes above all a theater of figures, and then we are witnessing a real pictorial explosion, after years of performances, research on the immaterial of the work., situations and behaviors. It was above all some very young painters, such as R. Combas, France Boisrond, H. Di Rosa, J.-C. Blais, etc., who led this movement which soon took the name of Figuration libre.