Hervé Télémaque’s exhibition A Hopscotch of the Mind at Aspen Art Museum provides a career-spanning overview of a unique artistic voice dedicated to diverse materials, forms, and media.
Hervé Télémaque: A Hopscotch of the Mind
November 4, 2022–March 26, 2023
Aspen Art Museum
Although his career as an artist spanned roughly six decades and his work can be found in the collections of such prestigious institutions as the Museum of Modern Art and Centre Pompidou, A Hopscotch of the Mind is Hervé Télémaque’s first solo museum show in the United States.
Télémaque was a Haitian artist born in Port-au-Prince in 1937. He immigrated to New York in 1957 to study at the Art Students League and immerse himself in the Abstract Expressionist scene, exploring his interest in soon-to-be iconic artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. He eventually became disenchanted with this creative community, though, believing that “this thoroughly New York school seemed inadequate for me to express where I came from and who I was.” He permanently relocated to Paris in 1961, aligning himself with Surrealism and the nascent Pop Art movement. Unfortunately, Télémaque passed away November 10, 2022, just days after the opening of his stateside solo museum debut.
The title of the exhibition, which was first staged in 2021 at London’s Serpentine Galleries, can be read as both an aesthetic and curatorial statement. With regard to the former, Télémaque’s diverse stylistic approach incorporates found objects, shaped panels, mixed media, abstraction, and design-based figuration. Likewise, the objects in the exhibition are two-dimensional paintings, wall-hanging sculptures, free-standing three-dimensional assemblages, and large-scale installations.
This wide-ranging use of materials, form, and content challenges the audience to jump (or, like hopscotch, skip) through various aesthetic, conceptual, and material registers when viewing the artworks. In doing so, the artworks produce productive tensions predicated upon disjunctive associations and frictions within a discreet encounter. Consumer graphics chafe against photographic documents of racial violence; debris and bric-a-brac create jarring juxtapositions with traditional painted surfaces.
But the title can also be read as an acknowledgement of the curatorial style of the exhibition. In the museum’s promotional material, we’re told: “Rather than taking a chronological approach, A Hopscotch of the Mind proposes a non-linear exploration of Télémaque’s visual vocabulary, encouraging viewers to jump between media and periods.” In doing so, the curation of the artist’s career retrospective mimics the surprising turns and disquieting contrasts found within individual pieces.
When assessing A Hopscotch of the Mind holistically, though, a coherent through-line does evidence itself: the idiosyncratic, aesthetically compelling, and conceptually dense visual idiom of a singular talent who dedicated himself to exploring a world fraught with “histories and legacies of racism and colonialism [and] the insidious ways that these structures continue to permeate our everyday lives.” Indeed, Télémaque’s own posthumous legacy is a testament to the art’s ability to act as a powerful vehicle for both beauty and social critique.