text written by Kazimierz Jankowski and Mihaela Varzari
In some of the photographs that populate Lynda Morris’s exhibition Documenting Cadere, 1972 – 1978 we see the artist André Cadere in a familiar guise; decked-out in flared jeans, wooden clogs and a Breton-striped shirt, an iconicity that was complete only with one of his Barres de Bois Rond in tow, carried by the artist as a walking stick of sorts, as though some Shepherd to the artworld, or perched against the wall of the gallery, often as an unsolicited addition. These pointedly irreverent artistic strategies, such as his adding of the Barres de Bois Rond without permission to an existing exhibition, or his conspicuous wielding of it at any number of art-openings, as he was famous for doing, suggests that attempting to convey this work is almost immediately curtailed if a curator decides that they want to convey this performative aspect of his work to a contemporary audience (as Lynda Morris chooses to do). Because without the living spark of André Cadere the man, the Barres de Bois Rond remains an object of mystery, no less intriguing than the romantic image, often portrayed, of the of the artist himself.
Lynda Morris’s exhibition does not suffer such curtailment, principally because it does not appear to be a ‘Retrospective’ in any conventional art-historical sense. Archives appear not to have been thoroughly and exhaustively plundered, as one may find with a big museum show, nor is there a sense in which the material presented intends to create a balanced, objective view of Cadere’s practice. Whatever the reason, Documenting Cadere, 1972-1978 chooses to re-animate only a portion of his career through carefully selected material that refer mostly to his time in London and Oxford (although not exclusively) during those six years. This material includes plenty of postcards and invitations that Cadere used to publicize his presence with the Barres de Bois Rond in the UK, but also Italy and France as well as photographs of him holding the Barres de Bois Rond or giving lectures to groups of bearded students in vast, white studios in, New York, Milan and Paris, often with a single thin ‘Bar’ intriguingly positioned at the deep end of one of these large white rooms. In spite of the standard museum-like display strategy and the linear “time-line” that structures the show and accumulates photographs, posters, letters, invitation cards in an anti-clockwise motion around the room, culminating, somewhat stoically, in a single Barres de Bois Rond pinned to the wall, Morris manages to create a rare encounter with the artist and his work. An ‘OK Magazine’ article from 1974 furnishes one vitrine with a tabloid-style ‘but is it art?’ type story on Cadere, next to which we can see a hand written letter to Morris from Cadere expressing thanks and delight in receiving the article. Elsewhere, a photo-montage of Cadere visiting an Oxford pub with his ‘Bar’, resembles a collection of old holiday-snaps in their blurred, discoloured, amateurish feel, as does an awkwardly cropped image of a cigarette smoking Morris with a jet-lagged Cadere in a pub, with the famous ‘Bar’ in the foreground.
It seems that the absence of Cadere is overcome by Morris through her choice of photographic and journalistic ‘snapshots’ that capture not only Cadere’s work, but also the periphery of his activities, which include a record of the artistic climate but also of the social unrest at the time – exemplified perhaps by the inclusion of an article on the Venice Biennial in ’68, which was marked by social rioting in Italy. These snapshots create an intimacy with Cadere’s work, by favouring fragmentation, blurriness and over exhaustive, lucid comprehensively. It is this sense of intimacy through this fragmented view of the past has the effect of drawing the viewer closer to the artist and his work, perhaps because this approach has the effect of beginning to dissolve the image we have of Cadere the Icon.