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Vic Gentils (1919-1997)

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Another of those more obscure Belgian artists is definitely Vic Gentils. Studied in Antwerp and became known through participating in the Kassel and Venice Biennales in the mid Sixties, but soon after people lost interest in his art was only known in Belgium. Not many museums have work by Gentils, but if you encounter work in a museum it is probably a “painting” from the series of ANTI-PEINTURE. a series of non paintings which is pure abstract and can be categorized as Informal.

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Following years of search and doubt during which Vic Gentils assimilates expressionism and the ubiquitous Picasso and Klee, in 1955 he turns to abstract painting. And when that too seems inadequate, Gentils starts making his famous assemblages. These are indeed abstract compositions, from wood scraps – usually frames from doors or windows – that he combines with appropriated picture frames, thus also referring to the painting as ‘window on the world’. In this sense *Anti-peinture I* (1960) is not really an adieu to painting but rather an evocation of painting’s own shortcomings. Gentils makes art-historical art. With cast-off decorations once sold to nostalgic parochial folk, he forges a new patrimony. In the white modern spaces so desirous of being timeless, his assemblages function like alienating interventions, objects that underscore the historical nature of each object, each space. And perhaps the opting for dark tones was his way to escape from the shadow of expressionism, by ironic reference to that somber style sometimes drown in asphalt.

 

Possibly there will be a time that the works by Gentils will be reevaluated and appreciated but for now the only thing to do is to study the older publications on Gentils of which some are available at www.ftn-books.com

 

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