Gilbert Peyre, French (1947 - )
Gilbert Peyre’s artistic universe lies on the borderline between fine arts and theater. His outrageous animated sculptures deliver outstanding performances in which ordinary objects reveal an improbable life of their own. In the bizarre world that Peyre’s imagination conjures up, chairs wrestle, mechanical rats rap-dance and clothing suspended from hangers sways in time to music.
Who is Gilbert Peyre? A self-taught artist difficult to fit into any category. Born in a small village in the hills above Nice, Peyre was fascinated by the troupes of traveling acrobats who still toured the French countryside during the 1950s, performing in fairgrounds... Inspired from these old-time saltimbanques, his first mobile sculptures were created with bits of wire and painted metal.
Originally intended as a tribute to Alexander Calder’s Circus sculpture these ingeniously simple pieces could be set in motion by pulling on a cord or wire. Assembled in his crowded Montmartre studio, a former boucherie on the rue Durantin, these works were on permanent view in its large storefront window, and crowds often gathered before thevitrine to enjoy impromptu spectacles.
When he first came to Paris, Peyre worked in a café for a short time, but his artistic creations rapidly became a full-time activity. The artist’s first show took place in an 18th arrondisement Renault garage. This quickly triggered more art-oriented offers, and just 2 years later in 1980, Peyre was included in a much-publicized exhibition organized by Paris’ prestigious Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
In recent years, his electrical devices and mechanisms have become increasingly complex. Although he’s occasionally compared to Tinguely or Marcel Duchamp, Gilbert Peyre has had the good sense to remain outside of any formal group.
In his circus-ring installation now on display, the visitor is invited to attend individual performances. A new show begins every 20 minutes. In one eloquent piece the main character is a garbage can labeled “GENIUS.” When it is activated, an agitated rocking movement threatens to topple it over, then from within the tightly-closed pail one hears terrible pounding and a tiny muffled voice calls “Let me out!, let me out!”
Tongue-in-cheek, many of Peyre’s works make us laugh at the world — and, at ourselves.