In reducing his palette to white, black, red and blue, Dubuffet’s L’Hourloupe distilled the defining quality of his oeuvre: unanalysable beauty realised with bewilderingly simple materials. With a sense of perpetual evolution, of mutual communication, hundreds of visual motifs combine in L’Amphibologique to evoke at once the wanderings of the unconscious and a perspective free from ‘civilising’ and falsifying gestalts. Just as the often deliberately restricted palettes of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning imbued their works with an unrivalled formal power, the bewitching, teeming coral reef we see within the figure of L’Amphibologique owes much to Dubuffet’s deft manipulation of his aptly-chosen materials. Not only did Dubuffet achieve staggeringly varied chromatic nuances with his media, but by using such a restricted set of materials, Dubuffet was in the optimal position from which to explore the forms generated by the unconscious: a mainstay in his work and one of the driving interests of his aesthetic.
Channeling the stranger, the outcast and the outsider, L’Amphibologique is a perfect instantiation of Dubuffet’s art. The neologism ‘hourloupe’ recalls the French verbs ‘hurler’ and ‘hululer’ – meaning to roar and to hoot respectively – as well as ‘loup’, the French noun for ‘wolf’. It is, however, precisely the sound of the word that appeals most deeply to the artist: “this ‘Hourloupe’ term is a noun invented on account of its phonetics. In French, it evokes a character who’s at once somewhat enchanting and grotesque; a kind of tragic, growling, lumbering figure” (Jean Dubuffet cited in: Daniel Abadie, ‘La création du monde’, in: Exh. Cat., Paris, Centre Pompidou, Jean Dubuffet, 2001, p. 244; translation original). The present work’s title translates as ‘The Amphibolous’, which is the quality sentences or clauses have when grammatically ambiguous. Such a feature is often the comedic pivot of jokes – take, for instance, Groucho Marx’s famous amphiboly in Animal Crackers (1930): “one morning, I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got into my pyjamas I’ll never know.” The title of both work and series, then, confer to the figure in L’Amphibologique a kind of mysticism, a knowing clownishness; an alluring and thrilling position on the fringes of conventional society. The figure is a hooting, roaring, captivating entity; its essence inextricable from its very ambiguity.
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