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Guy de Cointet


A Hot Bath

Colored pencil on paper
29.125 x 43.75 x 0.625 in.
Gift of the Marie Eccles Caine Foundation

These three drawings in colored pencil by Guy de Cointet were acquired from the Hal and Mary Ann Glicksman collection in 2004. They had originally been given by Cointet to his longtime friends and collaborators in gratitude for Mary Ann’s unpaid participation in an “interview”—in fact, a performance—staged by Cointet at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. (Hal attests that “[w]hen Guy was asked to do an artist’s talk about his work he would instead go with Mary Ann, who would perform a solo piece such as My Father’s Diary. At the . . . Workshop Mary Ann also did the Q&A, with Guy sitting as silent as the Sphinx.”) Many of Cointet’s paintings and drawings encode the texts of his playlike performances, transforming the normal (if self-consciously literary) language into “alphabets” of geometric elegance and mystery. Many other works codify unperformed texts, but his entire visual output should be considered parallel to and of a piece with his theatrical (and publishing) work.

In the three examples here—which Hal Glicksman says constitute all or part of a series rather than an integral triptych—there is no evident encoding. He doubts that specific content has been imbued, but the fact that each drawing contains the same number of nearly identical forms as letters in its title (e.g., A Hot Bath features eight colored horizontal bars) indicates that Cointet wanted at least to make us suspect the engagement of a coding process, and even seek to crack his code (as we can in so many other of his drawings). Text based or not, the three drawings reflect Cointet’s intricate aesthetic of simplicity and opacity. As “texts” or as objects, the works have a dramatic presence only heightened by their inexplicable “meaning.”

Peter Frank

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