From sculpture to photography
Henri Foucault graduated from the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and launched his artistic career with (abstract) sculpture. When he finally switched over to photography, Foucault combined the tools of the darkroom with the methods of sculpture. Photography, for him, went hand in hand with research into material, depth, and form. As Dominique Païni, the exhibition’s curator, emphasizes: “Photographing and sculpting, sculpting and photographing—it’s the alteration between the two that takes place in the work of Henri Foucault.” Alix Agret poignantly adds in her preface to the exhibition catalog: “Henri Foucault’s images stave off the photographic flatness by transforming photography into a three-dimensional medium. It’s as if he intended to show, a bit tongue in cheek, that, in the wake of Rodin, surface must always be considered as the outer limit of volume.”
Foucault’s fine arts training has also left its mark on his penchant for manipulating mediums and techniques. Foucault often uses the cameraless technique of the photogram (subjects are exposed directly against a photosensitive plate); he also tears his photographs, overexposes or saturates them. This type of physical manipulation lends his work a sensory and kinesthetic dimension: especially that the human body is at the heart of his work.
A multitude of bodies laid bare
Foucault’s hands-on approach, like poetic surgery, produces stunning compositions. Shadows, light, arrangements, materials, staging: every little choice becomes a trace in Foucault’s work, allowing him to express the body differently. Although sometimes they may even disappear, it’s always their poetic dimension that is laid bare, regardless if this is about warm bodies or cold, impersonal ones. What Foucault’s photographs bring to light is a multitude of bodies, a multitude of possibilities. The photographers interventions are like impressionistic brushstrokes which, with a delicate touch, convey auras, sensations, and perhaps even a sense of the corporeal.
By Sophie Puig
Henri Foucault, Le corps infiniment
From April 4 to May 18, 2019
Galerie Thierry Bigaignon, 3 rue Charlot, 75003 Paris