Saturday, May 21, 2016


One Visionary Architect’s Own Best Subject: Himself

Slide Show
Slide Show|10 Photos

Self-Portraits by François Dallegret

Self-Portraits by François Dallegret

CreditMarc Lullier
The enigmatic French architect François Dallegret’s imaginative, futuristic and unconventional ideas have propelled designs for everything from bars of soap to cars, nightclubs and light installations over the last 60 years. A new exhibition at Los Angeles’s WUHO gallery, “Francois Dallegret: The World Upside-Down,” will be his first solo show in that city, and focuses primarily on his work from the 1950s through the 1980s. Still active in Montreal, Dallegret’s diverse output is sometimes critical, often funny and always visionary, straddling the line between design and art. Like his utopian contemporaries Yves Klein and Superstudio, Dallegret prodigiously imagined possibilities for a better, more evolved way of life. The show’s curator, the architect Francois Perrin, describes Dallegret’s vision for the future as advanced for its time, and notes that even in a pre-Internet, pre-smartphone age, the designer sought to determine how technology could improve our daily lives.
His approach usually centered around the body, and nowhere was that more evident than in the portraits that Dallegret produced of himself, often taken in collaboration with other photographers (including Harry Shunk and Janos Kender, who photographed Yves Klein in the famed image “Leap Into the Void”). Taken collectively, these photos comprise some of the most interesting material on view in “The World Upside-Down.” In one photo, Dallegret poses at Le Drug, the Montreal nightclub he designed; in another, “Chaise Ressort,” he lounges on his own Mod chair. In “L’iNtrocoNversoMAtic,” his image becomes the model for a design for a wearable machine that can enhance mental capabilities. And the work for which Dallegret is perhaps best known is accounted for, too: his illustration of Reyner Banham’s 1965 Art in America essay “A Home Is Not a House,” which imagined a bubble for living in which all necessities were provided by a mobile mechanical unit. Dallegret foregrounded the nude figures of himself and “Banham” (actually Banham’s head on Dallegret’s body) in his imagery accompanying the piece, as a way of demonstrating that with this radical use of technology, one wouldn’t even need to wear clothes.
Dallegret’s portraits help contextualize even the most abstract of his designs, and form a mini-chronology of his work, tracing the evolution of his career as an artist and designer. They reveal an instinct for performance, and also divulge a sense of humor that feels closely linked to a sense of irony: While utopian in ambition, Dallegret’s more fanciful designs show the limits and impediments of our social and technological capabilities. Strangely enough, he persuades us that even his most unlikely proposals can make us better humans and prevent us turning inward on ourselves — precisely by inserting himself into the picture.