The exhibition of GéBé at Anne Barrault gallery curated by Alexandre Devaux presents about forty emblematic works -humorous drawings, comic strips, and press cartoons- by this major contemporary graphic artist. The exhibition takes place at the same time as the monograph of GéBé, recently published by Les Cahiers dessinés, J’ai vu passer le bobsleigh de nuit, and the new edition of L’An 01, with the film, by L’Association.
An artist of the “new wave”
GéBé, Georges Blondeaux, was born in 1929 in Villeneuve-Saint-Georges. He died in 2004 in Melun. After working as an industrial draughtsman for SNCF, and publishing his first humorous drawings in La Vie du rail, Le Journal du dimanche, Radar, Télé-Magazine, Paris-Match, Scottish Daily Express and Paris-Press-L’intransigeant, in1961, GéBé joins Hara–Kiri, the newspaper created a few months earlier. At once, he becomes one of its mainstays. The other ones, beyond the creators Cavanna and Bernier (Professor Choron), are Fred, Reiser, Cabu, Wolinski and Topor. With them and very few others, such as Siné, working for other papers, GéBé is part of the outburst of a new wave of graphic humour in France. This humour is characterized by claimed blackness, absurdity, nonsense, and the ability of shocking, emphasized by elision or no caption, ignored conventional subjects, contempt of old-fashioned humour, and a greater intellectual demand towards the reader. The visual gag, like any form in its best expressions, soaks itself in the new rhythms of the world, adopts them, adapts them or contests them.
A multimedia creator
GéBé’s humour, his graphic and poetic genius are displayed along Hara-Kiri pages. As he gains confidence, wild with liberty, he dares venture further in thought, mental game and Utopia he defines as “what leaps above reality in order to discover other landscapes than those we know.” Cavanna sums it up: “ This guy’s intelligence gripped you. His brain worked by itself, like an out-dated and very subtle machine, with carefully oiled parts. High-precision humour. I felt that everything was going to change. He was too much for us.” Actually, his capacity of invention, his creativity, curiosity, and his strange, but also easy technique with which GéBé assimilates, twists, undermines in turn the codes of advertising, photo-novels, comic strips, reports, detective novels, caricatures, theatre and even cinema leave you stunned.
In 1966 GéBé joins the team of Pilote, the paper in which many comic strip stories are published. From 1967 on, he wrote sketches for various radio broadcasts: Le Feu de camp du dimanche matin with Gotlib, Fred and Goscinny (Europe 1), Prélude à l’après-midi (France culture), Le Théâtre de l’étrange (Inter variétés), Les Papous dans la tête, Les décraqués (France Culture), and many others. GéBé also wites several scenarios for film creations, kinds of spatial layout of his drawn boxes: “Il est prudent de louer” (it is wise to rent), 1967 (broadcast Rhésus B., 2ème chaine), “Les ombres chinoises”, (shadow show), 1975 (Le petit rapporteur, TF1). He makes the short films L’Inventaire in 1974, and La Mémoire in 1975. He regularly contributes to the Oulipian programme dedicated to drawing: Du Tac au tac, 1969. Jean-Luc Godard films him in 1976 while he is drawing the story Tout à 1fr for the broadcast Six fois deux (FR3). In the eighties, GéBé, with Roland Topor, Jean-Michel Ribes, and a few others, stages Palace and Merci Bernard. There are narrow links between his pen and a camera.
Drawings are films
GéBé has had a passion for cinema since his childhood. Many of his drawings, for example, refer to the seventh art. He is the author of several written and drawn short films, of “ films to be done”. Some have been done. Je ne vous souhaite pas le même rêve (8/09/1970) is a short film directed by Yves kovacz. This film, the original drawings and the framework of this surprising “comic strip”, as well as the comic strips of On ne se dit pas tout entre époux, from which Jacques Doillon has taken the scenario for his first short film, are shown in the exhibition, as well as the first boards of GéBé’s cult film: L’An 01.
L’An 01 is a creation, which is a mise en abîme of the frames of the press, the cinema, the book, the comic strip, drawing and the author/reader relationship. GéBé’s idea was to make a film with his readers, so that the reader enters the creative act, and the time of the publishing of his strips in a paper intermingles with the time of the shooting of the scenes of the film and that of the publishing of a book to tell this adventure. GéBé has switched from “the film to be done”, to “the film being done”, and then to “the achieved film”. The book L’An 01 comes out in 1972, published by Les éditions du Square (the publishers of Hara-Kiri, Charlie Hebdo, etc.). Jacques Doillon directs the film (his first long film), with two sequences shot by Alain Resnais and Jean Rouch. Gérard Depardieu has a part in it, one of his first ones, the same for Coluche, Higelin, Gotlib, and many others. It is released in 1973: 500 000 tickets are sold.
GéBé remained attached to the press till the end of his life. Besides his many contributions as an artist and a writer to many papers, he was the chief editor of Hara-Kiri from 1969 to 1985 in which he published many young artists: Got, Pascal Doury, Pyon,Bazooka, Alex Barbier, Pascal, Frédéric Pajak, Placid, Muzo, etc. He cofounded the first draft of Charlie Hebdo, (1970), and the second one (1992) of which he was the chief editor, then the manager until his death. He was also the chief editor of Zéro (1986-1988), and the artistic director of L’Idiot international (1989-1994) in which he publishes Topor, Captain Cavern, Lulu Larsen, Tignous, etc. Through his many positions, GéBé strongly marked the scene of the press from 1960 to 2000.
But the Utopian strength of GéBé’s work made him cross the frame of journalism. He has been a mine of inspiration, a starter for many who have made Rue de la magie, Berck, Qu’est-ce que je fous là, Une plume pour Clovis and L’An 01 their models. Some artists such as Pierre Fournier, Reiser, Jacques Tardi, the artists of Bazooka, Frédéric Pajak, Jean-Christophe Menu, Placid, Rocco, Killoffer have shown, or still show their connivance with GéBé’s work, often with the man himself. Sardon, the Stamp grapher, has written in his blog: “GéBé is one of my favourite artists, and maybe too one of the rare persons you could describe with the obscene word poet without sounding ridiculous.
The first day when you are an artist, you do not set the alarm, you hear the neighbours leave for work, you go back to sleep, thrilling with pleasure.
A few years later, you have become a perfect hypocrite. You say; “I am but a mere and conscientious craftsman. I toil at my work as the joiner planes his plank, turns the leg of a chair, adjusts a piece of furniture.” And listening to the interview on the radio, you can smell wood shavings and wax.
You also say: “my pen, or my pencil are like any tools.” You nearly add “like a pneumatic drill, or a stamping press, which deafens you and threatens your legs 6000 times a day”, but you do not say so, and stop dead. That is the job.
The job of an impostor. I do not mean the entertainers who pour out amusements to exhilarate the shopping masses, but those who have cleared out and found the key to the fields, put it into their pockets and tell the fields, paint the fields, sell their stories and their paintings, then, with some of the money, pay guards to bar the way to the fields. Ever since the cave age, creators have shown their works as conjurers show rabbits. “Oh! Bravo!” And the artist: “Thank you! And now, go home, you work tomorrow.” And people leave: “you wonder how they do it!” and they feel mean, and if on their way home they meet a policeman, a judge, a pub owner or the president of the United States they bow.
As for me, I spill the beans and I break the professional secrecy. A renegade, I reveal to everyone where he can find the keys, the fields, the ideas and the rabbits. I say to all those slaving for a 90% useless production “STOP! The other 10%, go on, you will be relieved.
To begin with, we will stop poisoning our planet. Then, we will have time. And appropriating back one’s time for thinking, for being curious, judging, learning, enjoying and desiring, letting one’s aspirations mature, time for true human anxiety, time for wondering what is important, this is revolution, when everyone, seven thousand million thinking persons start doing so.
Text by Alexandre Devaux