by Paul Kos
In 1998, I met young French artist Julien Berthier, (born 1975, right handed and left brained).
He had come to the San Francisco Art Institute on a Fulbright Scholarship. Six months later, I bought, for an embarrassingly low price, his too big to ship “Home Cart.”
I called it French Frou Frou. Berthier’s piece is a shopping cart fabricated in re-bar with decorative curves mimicking the Arabesques in the French balconies of the XIXth century.
About the same time, my wife, Isabelle Sorrell, who is also from France, played me a song by Les Nuls, Omelette. The misheard lyrics are a parody on Paul Simon’s song, Homeless, made while in South Africa, like saying “cheese omelets” for “she’s homeless.”
“Omelette, omelette, aux tomates et aux champignons
Omelette, omelette, aux patates et aux petites onions
Est-ce-que tu peux mettre des poivrons?
Oh oui! oh oui! oh oui!
Est-ce-que tu peux mettre des onions?
-’nions, ‘nions, ‘nions!
Est-ce-que tu peux mettre des carrottes?
Oh oui! oh oui! oh oui!
Est-ce-que tu peux mettre des lardons?
Omelette, omelette, bien baveuse avec des crouttons
Omelette, omelette, aux tomates et aux champignons…”
In 2011, I invited Julien back to San Francisco to join me in a group show called “Spread” at SOMArts. In the show, older artists chose younger artists working in a similar vein. He arrived and wanted to make something truly indigenous to the city. After a few days walking, gawking, stalking the streets, he spied the billboard of Bay Alarm. Soon after, his piece “A
LOST” appeared for the opening.
Working on two levels, Julien Berthier adds in “Home Cart” and subtracts in “A Lost.”
Nice, simple work, like pulling the rug out from under you. Only don’t forget, to make “A Lost”(to make, sounding like an additive), required the removal of two words from a large billboard, the raison d’etre of the piece, becoming that which the verb states, a thief, a theft! Subtractive graffiti? No, he is not a graffiti artist armed with spray cans, he is an artist thief with a small blade. In this case, less is more. Once executed, it looks like he obeyed the billboard’s new declaration.
-Written on April Fool’s Day, 2013.
Julien Berthier. www.julienberthier.org
Les Nuls-Omlette www.youtube.com/watch?v=srf-Ah_ugW8
Paul Simon www.youtube.com/watch?v=KT6mlW8NlCU
This article was selected from Issue 13 of SFAQ.