Author: Céline Chazalviel
If we could attribute to Stanley Brouwn a desire to dissociate his artistic production from who he is and to reveal otherness through the mastery of his image and that of his work, we could also divine an intention to focus the public’s attention on his exhibitions. Behind the standards put in place for the communication related to his exhibitions—the use of lowercase and Helvetica exclusively, the refusal to reproduce images of his work, to produce (or allow production of) written commentary on the subject of the same work, to appear in the context of a vernissage or even to answer an interview—the artist builds his identity by way of ellipses. Since his participation in documenta 5 (1972), the stories linked to this attitude have come to draw the outlines of an artistic posture that goes beyond any one particular case. The invitation cards for his solo exhibitions provide a symptomatic example: set almost exclusively in Helvetica, the absence of uppercase, flying in the face of the graphic identity of the gallery or the host institution, they seem impossible to date, give or take twenty years.
This mastery reveals that graphic and typographic choices represent one of the spaces of neutrality built by Brouwn, like other artists and theoreticians of his generation, and generations that came after. According to one of the positions of Sol Lewitt, “conceptual artists are more mystical than rationalist,” and the case of Brouwn gives weight to this idea. Whether it be by way of a mediation adopted by the artist himself and the relationship with the institution that it entails, that of the myth of the autonomy of the artwork, of the relationship with documentation, with commentary and the analysis of an artwork or even the conditions of reception, Brouwn escapes the category of the conceptual artist and incites us to measure the contemporary echoes of his radicality.