Georges Rousse


Living the world
with a camera

When he was 9 years old, Georges Rousse received the legendary Kodak Brownie camera as a Christmas gift. Since then, the camera has never left his side. While attending medical school in Nice, he decided to study professional photography and printing techniques, then opened his own studio dedicated to architectural photography. Soon, his passion for the medium led to devote himself entirely to photography, following in the footsteps of such great American masters as Steichen, Stieglitz and Ansel Adams.

After he discovered Land Art and Malevich's Black Square against a white field, Georges Rousse altered his relationship to photography, inventing a unique approach that shifted the relationship of painting to space. He began making installations in the types of abandoned or derelict buildings that have long held an attraction for him--creating ephemeral, one-of-a-kind artworks by transforming these sites into pictorial spaces that are visible only in his photographs.

From the early 1980s on, Georges Rousse has chosen to show his photographs on a large scale, so that his viewers participate in the work and experience the sense of space in a compelling way.

Collapsing the usual restrictions between artistic mediums, his unique body of work quickly made its mark on the contemporary art world. Since his first exhibition in Paris, at the Galerie de France in 1981, Georges Rousse has continued creating his installations and showing his photographs around the world, in Europe, in Asia (Japan, Korea, China, Nepal.), in the United States, in Quebec and in Latin America.

He has participated in numerous biennials (Paris, Venice, Sydney) and received many prestigious awards:

1983 Villa Médicis « Hors Les Murs » à New York City (USA)
1985-1987 Villa Médicis, Rome's Award (Italie)
1988 International Center of Photography Award, New York (USA)
1989 Salon de Montrouge Drawing Prize
1992 Romain Roland Fellowship, Calcutta (India)
1993 National Grand Prix of Photography
2008 Succeeded Sol LeWitt as an associate member of the Belgian Royal Academy (Belgium)

He is represented by several European galleries and his works are included in many major collections the world over.

Georges Rousse was born in 1947 in Paris, where he currently lives andworks.

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In Praise of Spaces

Georges Rousse is unmistakably a photographer : his photographs are intrinsic to revealing his images, and deciding the composition, cropping and lighting and clicking the shutter are all essential to his process. But he is simultaneously a painter, sculptor, and architect, carrying out the same relationship to his worksites as a painter to his canvas, or a sculptor to his clay or marble.

His raw material is Space: the space of deserted buildings. Taking his inspiration from a site's architectonic quality and the light he finds there, he quickly chooses a « fragment » and creates a mise-en-scène, keeping in mind his ultimate goal, creating a photographic image. In these empty spaces, Georges Rousse constructs a kind of utopia that projects his vision of the world - his imaginary universe.

His creation both expresses his artistic intentions and resonates with his impressions of the site, its history and its culture. Finally, it results in a photograph, a flat plane, so the shapes he paints and draws, and the volumes and architectural constructions he creates in those massive spaces seem fractured or split on different levels. His photo masterfully brings together painting, architecture, and drawing. It carves out a new space in which the artist's fictive world becomes visible.

At the heart of this questioning the definition of art, his work deals with our relationship to Space and Time.

In his photographs, Georges Rousse compels us to read architecture as static, images as immobile, then gradually transforms our perception of Space and Reality. The final photographic image perturbs our visual habits and convictions by presenting three kinds of space: the real space, where he makes his installations; an imaginary utopian space, which the artist invents and then carefully builds at his chosen site; and a new space that is visible from only one spot when he clicks the camera shutter, and exists only in the photo.

The convergence of these spaces goes beyond a visual game: Like a hall of mirrors, enigmatic and dizzying, it questions the role of photography as a faithful reproduction of reality; it probes the distances between perception and reality, between imaginary and concrete.

While they evoke the memory of a place and its poetic metamorphosis, his photographs also deal with mankind's problematic relationship to time in industrialized society, and the traces he leaves behind on the environment. Forgotten, neglected, in ruins or slated for destruction, the sites selected for his installations act as a metaphor for Time as it hurtles toward death.

By transforming these sites into works of art, Georges Rousse offers them a new life, however fleeting. When he photographs them, he stops time, fixing an image in which traces of the past intermingle with his recent artistic actions, an image full of hope and energy, an image devoid of nostalgia. The history of these deserted places need not be illustrated explicitly by the artist; its presence exists in the image. As if traveling across time, it joins, in our gaze, that of its transformation.

A kind of new experience therefore occurs in the image, a spiritual dimension - a dimension more powerful than reality--that comes from appropriating, using and transforming a place before its destruction. This is the experience that comes from Georges Rousse's work.

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