May 2, 2012

Jean Hélion at Schroeder Romero & Shredder


Before there was Philip Guston there was Jean Hélion. Well, of course, there was also Kasimir Malevich, André Derain, not to mention Pablo Picasso, but the sheer élan of Hélion’s 180-degree about turn from abstraction to figuration stands on its own. As the war clouds beckoned in 1939 this sometime pioneer of purism, co-founder with Théo van Doesburg of the Art Concret group in 1930, embraced a new spirit of humanism, seeking to connect his art with “the life around us.” Schroeder Romero & Shredder have brought together two dozen paintings and works on paper to survey five decades of the neglected French master’s works. It can be predicted, however, that, just as happened with the fine abridged version of the Pompidou survey brought to New York in 2005 by the National Academy Museum, this selection will do more to bolster the unity of this remarkable artist’s oeuvre than enforce the sense of rupture of his stylistic switcheroo. The exhibition coincides with republication of Hélion’s moving and influential 1943 memoir as an escaped prisoner of war, “They Shall Not Have Me,” with a new introduction by Deborah Rosenthal and an afterword by the artist’s widow, Jacqueline [Arcade Publishing, $24.95]