Bernar Venet’s Apoétiques: 1967-1998 (Mamco, 1999)
Bernar Venet is famous for his monumental sculptures, which have been displayed worldwide from Versailles to Gibbs Farm in New Zealand. More recently, he has been consolidating a reputation as an important art collector. The Venet Foundation in Le Muy opened to the public in 2014; it houses Venet’s personal collection–amassed over decades–of minimalist art, which includes pieces by Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Frank Stella, and Richard Serra. But fewer people–particularly in the Anglophone world–know about Venet’s conceptual poetry, which he has produced since the late 1960s. In 1999, the Musée d’art moderne et contemporain in Geneva published his Apoétiques: 1967-1998, a gem of a book that should interest fans of conceptual poetry, found poetry, and/or visual poetry. Apoétiques is mostly in French but includes pieces in English as well as in the language of mathematics. My review-essay, which reflects upon found poems such as the wonderful “Monostique,” is included in the latest edition of Hyperallergic Weekend.
It’s interesting how much Venet’s brand of conceptualism departs from LeWitt’s: “Conceptual art doesn’t really have much to do with mathematics, philosophy, or any other mental discipline. The mathematics used by most artists is simple arithmetic or simple number systems” (“Paragraphs from Conceptual Art”). “Monostique” certainly goes well beyond simple arithmetic.