Figuration Libre – The History
1980s saw a major upheaval in the field of arts, especially Visual Arts, paintings particularly. While the United States & Europe witnessed the change as Neo- Expressionism and Bad Paintings, France specifically faced this creative shift of attitude in Western Painting, as Figuration Libre (Free Figuration), in 1980. The same wave of change affected German and Italian artistry with the names Junge Wilde and Transavantguardia, respectively. In 1981, Fluxus Italian artist Ben Vautier (born in Italy, in 1935) coined the term ‘Figuration Libre.’ This movement was a revolt by the young junior artists and painters, for more colorful and figurative painting. Figuration Libre was a very successful movement in its time. Thanks to the media coverage it garnered.
Outstanding French artist, such as Remi Blanchard (1958-93), François Boisrond (born 1959), Robert Combas (born 1957), Hervé Di Rosa (born 1959), Richard Di Rosa (Italian – born 1959), and Louis Jammes (born 1958) supported this movement. Somewhere during 1982-85, these artists got the chance to explore more with their counterparts in United States, and were called Bad Painting Group. American Painters, like Keith Haring (1958-90), Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-88), Kenny Scharf (born 1958), and Tseng Kwong Chi (1950-90), were the key Figuration Libre artists, who exhibited their paintings in New York, London, Pittsburgh, and Paris.
Like other movements of their times, Figuration Libre dealt with the marginalized section of expressions or art forms. Just as Cubism dealt with African and Oceanian Art, Surrealism with children, Art Brut with sketches, and Pop Art with publicity & comic strips, the Libre is about the freedom of expression and Free Style Painting, portraying uninhibited creativity on all kinds of art medium, irrespective of cultural, geographical, and ideological differences.
Figuration welcomed every form of art, be it Fine Arts, Applied Arts, Western Art, or Non-Western Art. It broadened the horizons, changing the pattern of painting radically. The whole scenario of this new painting movement knit a very close friendship with the Bad Painting of the United States. In 1982, art critic Otto Hahn organized an exhibition in New York called ‘Statements, New York 82 Leading artists of France.’ In 1985, ‘5/5: Figuration Libre, France-USA’ was organized in the Paris Museum of Modern Art. These exhibitions encompassed a whole set of works of the leading Figuration Libre artists, like Basquiat, Blanchard, Boisrond, Combas, Crash, les frères di Rosa, Haring, Jammes, Kwang Chi, and Scharf. This Western Painting style undoubtedly had an effect on the modern day painting in a big way.