Roger de Montebello
born Paris 1964
lives in Venice
At age 2 i did my first drawings. At 13 i made my first installation. At age 16 i moved to New York. A year later, in 1982, I discovered Jackson Pollock, and I started painting with an artistic program in mind.
I had grown up in a family haunted by the arts. My grandfather had worked with Salvador Dali on an optical 3-D project. My great-aunt Marie-Laure de Noailles was an early patron of Surrealism. My uncle Philippe headed the Metropolitan Museum of Arts. My brother Francis was an expressionist painter in New York in the 80's, and my uncle Rougemont was an active abstract artist in France.
So I was, from a young age, very aware of the artistic adventures of the XXth century, and the direction they had taken. Yet I felt a profound discontent with the art scene and the aesthetic values which surrounded me in New York in the 80's. I understood that pop art, minimalism and abstract expressionism, however interesting, were an escape from reality. I felt that, after so much de-construction, the time had come for re-construction.
My general analysis was that of a dislocation of the world, evolving into an ever-growing technological and social complexity and level of abstraction. One consequence was the loss of the feeling of connectedness to the world. Even the artists, often greatly involved in contemporary or psychological issues, seemed to have lost a sense of connection to existence itself.
I assigned myself the mission to regain, in my art, part of this lost connection.
I began by tackling theory. Instead of studying at a downtown New York art school, i chose to go to Harvard University, temple of academic reasoning and science, far away from "hip" and "hot" art scenes. My uncle Philippe de Montebello encouraged me in my decision, with these punchy words: "Get a good theoretical and art historical background. An educated painter will always be better than an ignorant one."
At Harvard, i studied studio art and i majored in art history and art theory, acquiring an understanding of the major artistic issues of our times. Through theory and practice, I developped the intellectual vision necessary for my artistic work. I furthered my exploration of contemporary issues at Science-Po in Paris.
The question, then, was how to visualize my concept. As a painter, i first needed to decompose the world into its simplest elements, in order to assess their simple existence, and then re-link them to one another, as a metaphor for connectedness and wholeness. I needed a laboratory for my mind games.
In 1992, after careful consideration I chose Venice, a self-sufficient world where everything echoed into perfect mirror-images in the water reflections.This cosmos gave me the perfect playground for reconstructing volumes, space, color and light. It was abstract yet it was real and observable. It would allow me to reconcile geometry with perceivable reality, ideas with sensitivity, and to find an agreement between parts. The ancient Greeks called it harmonia.
Art historian René Huyghe understood my quest when he wrote, in 1994: "Lumière, couleur et construction plastique se partagent le talent des peintres. Roger de Montebello a su les associer à un degré égal dans sa recherche, dotée de ce fait d'une richesse exceptionnelle."
A reconstructed Venice is the visualization of my concept. By reconstructing it i achieve harmony. Why do i want harmony? Because it connects us to our essence, and that is what we lack in our deconstructed world.
In 2000, i moved on to the next step, which was to integrate more complexity into the equation. For this i chose, as my second lab, the world of bullfights. Bullfighting is all about movement and strong emotions. It is a world removed from ordinary reality, yet what could be more real than life and death? What could be more real than combat for survival?. Corrida is a condensed form of our existence. It also has an abstract geometry: pure, bright colors in the perfect circles of the bullring. So for 10 years i travelled extensively throughout Spain to paint live, directly in oils, during the corrida. My goal: to feel and capture its essence: movement, truth, pathos.
At as result of this work, i developped, in 2009 and 2010, Megachromia, a concept which brings together photography and painting, unites representation with abstraction, and maintains a connectedness to the world.
Today i live both in Paris and in Venice, i continue going to bullfights in Spain, and am continuously exploring new laboratories
Montebello, Paris, November 2010
Montebello in Venice, 2010 photo Valerio Vincenzo
2011 Paris Nuit Blanche
2011 Artheme Galerie, Paris
2011 Venice Biennale
2011 Adler, Geneva
2011 Galerie Huit, Arles
2010 Bernard Chauchet Contemporary Art, London
2010 Artheme Galerie, Paris
2009 Artheme Galerie, Paris
2005 Galeria Estandarte, Madrid
2004 Gallery Holly Snapp, Venice
2004 Galerie Pelar, Newport, New York
2003 Bernard Chauchet Contemporary Art, London
2002 Artemis Fine Arts, Paris
1999 W.M. Brady & Co., New York
1996 Alliance Française, Venice
1993 Services Culturels de l'Ambassade de France, New York
1992 79 rue La Boetie, Paris