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Copy Art seen from the perspective of Jean-Claude Baudot’s Collection

06/25/2016 |  Marie Maertens


What is Copy Art?

Copy art, which can be called Xerox art, Electrostatic art, Xerography, copy graphic art or electrophotographic art became a global phenomenon in 1960 following the invention of the first fully automated xerographic copier in 1959. Very quickly, figurative artists adopted this new medium to create reproductions not only on paper, but also on wood, plates, and fabrics. The works can grow in size to become collage art or fit the category of what is known as mail art or book art.

In the 1970ties, the late Pati Hill (in Jean-Claude Baudot’s collection) was one of the first to experiment with an IBM copier. Her work will be shown at the Centre Pompidou, at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, or at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. In 1976, San Francisco's La Mamelle gallery had an important Copy Art show that traveled to Japan, Canada and Italy. Charles Arnold and Wallace Berman were among the first artists to design Copy Art, followed by many women artists such as Carol Heifetz Neiman, Helen Chadwick and Sonia Sheridan (also in Jean-Claude Baudot's collection.) They in turn were joined by others, such as Tim Head, Evergon and David Hockney.


The Dictionary of Media Arts describes this movement as beginning shortly before the 60ties."We usually distinguish three generations of copy art: end of 60ties, first generation (work in black and white); 1968-1980, second generation (color work and analog machines); 1980 and beyond, third generation (work in color and digital machines.) »

Critical Point of view

But it is well into the 80ties that Copy Art first begins to attract attention and benefits from critical articles and reviews. These reviews were linked to exhibitions. In France, the Telerama magazine (December 18, 1981) reported on the ARS-MACHINA event at the House of Culture (the Maison de la Culture) in Rennes. The author, Dominique Pinelli, mentions Jean-Paul Albinet (Jean-Claude Baudot has copies from this period) who had photocopied about 30 visitors from head to toe on opening night of the show.


Among the dozens of artists present were Pati Hill, Paul-Armand Gette, and Wilfrid Rouff (also present in the collection) who assembled stacks of photocopies before integrating them into objects. Visitors were invited to experiment and take a turn at expressing themselves using these machines.

There also was the Fashion Garden event of December 1, 1989, marking the twentieth biennial of Visual Arts in São Paulo, celebrating Copy Art. Jean-Claude reported on those events.

“A studio was installed there, called Electrography. Artists were invited from Europe, Japan, the United States and Canada, some of whom created work there. James Durand is an example and is represented in my (Baudot’s) collection. Another aspect of the show was a section that traced the development and presented a panorama of Copy Art.

“The Journalist Fabienne Lips-Dumas also recalls that Spain established the first museum dedicated to Copy Art on this date. It is in Cuenca and called the International Museum of Electrography, founded by Dr José Alcala and Christian Rigal, who used theartist pseudo , Cejar.

“Rigal is considered in France as the great theoretician of Electrography and is responsible for inspiring me (Baudot) to collect Copy Art. In this article, Sonia Landy Sheridan, also in the collection, is said to be the great Pope of Copy Art.”And later with Jean Mathiaut and « Media Nova ».

The journalist Fabienne Lips-Dumas concludes with a series of images of Jean Mathiaut, also acquired by Jean-Claude Baudot, as well as a comic book by Jean Teulé, which is at the intersection of photography, Copy Art and comics.

Christian Rigal who is most recognized for his work in Copy Art, provided a definition of Copy Art, in his essay, The Art Electrography.


“In 1980, I forged the neologism ‘thermography’ to refer to the diversion of the electro-copier (electrostatic process) of its primary function – making conforming photocopies – to create original works. The art is therefore, by definition, the very antithesis of photocopying.


“It is neither a technology nor a technique in itself but the diversion of a technology, Xérocopie, by the use of the specific techniques I have called: degeneration, manupicture, chromatic decomposition, displacement Simultaneous, Chronoxérographie, light painting, etc. The specific (diverted) technology has made it possible to renew (by integrating) painting, sculpture, photography, animated film, comics, ballet and even fashion. It has also promoted the advent of interactive events. » It was the birth of « the Copy Art Movment »



The link with Jean-Claude Baudot

Jean-Claude Baudot is the son of a collector and grandson of Bibliophile. He started by acquiring old postcards, then contemporary ones, in particular those by Kurt Schwitters, Pablo Picasso and Hergé. That led Baudot to become aware of the work of figurative artists who used the photocopier to produce work. That was what led to meeting Christian Rigal.

Says Baudot, “In an extraordinary coincidence, Rigal also found and enabled me to acquire the first copier in the world created by James Watt in 1780. Then one day he signed a copy of his book on Copy Art, writing to me: ‘Why not your next collection?’ It was 1980 and I was hooked.


“Today, I have more than 1600 works by almost 400 international artists, thanks to Christian Rigal. He was regularly in contact with Klaus Urbons the founder of the Fotokopie Museum in Germany , and Jean Mathiaut, professor at the École Nationale des Beaux Arts (National School of Fine Arts) in Dijon, where he taught this medium, and who worked in an almost pictorial way « generations ELECTRONUMERIQUES ».


Copy Art in France was at a very creative period during that time and enjoyed a synergy with artists in Eastern Europe and Brazil. Christian Rigal, with his expertise, drew Baudot’s attention to works that have proved to be foundational in the history of the Copy Art Movement.

These are works of Gil J. Wolman with his pocket portraits, literally the photocopy of the objects contained in the pockets of visitors. There also was Bruno Munari, who was an artist attracted to copy art as early as 1963.He was also an author of a book on this subject.

Baudot acquired works by Daniel Cabanis, Philippe Buissonnet, Alain Bicadis, Anna Bella Geiger and Sonia Landy Sheridan. Her self-portraits on Silk Squares are major works and she also participated in the development of the 3M copier. Richard Torchia was working in a hyper realistic style, reconstituting objects through their images.

“This was just as Pati Hill--whom I knew well, and whose series From Versailles Eye to Eye, restored with perfect precision, twig by twig-- the King's pear tree. I also included Herman de Vries, Hervé Di Rosa, J. R Hudinilson, Dector & Dupuy or Orlan...


“I cannot omit the greatest work of copy art in the world by Rigal (artist name: Cejar.) It was 144 meters long and what enabled him to do this was the first rotating photocopy machine that was installed in the Louvre. The work was unrolled in the Grand Gallery.

“In addition to his work in my archive, I continue to pay tribute to him for his great contributions; it is important to me. My collection has grown over ten years, from 1980 to 1990 and, although the artists have created bodies of work, 90% of my collection is composed of unique works, said Baudot. »


Copy Art, today

In re-reading highlights of Jean-Claude’s collection, Copy Art represents work that is witness to a period or the first premises that today is called contemporary archaeology. The question of the value of a work is an issue, in the face of its multiplicity and its reproductivity.

Thus, the most expressive (clearest) example would be the Xerox Book, a collective work by Carl Andre, Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris and Lawrence Weiner, with 1,000 copies published in New York in 1968. Jean-Claude Baudot has a copy. He share it with the exhibition « Xerox « 2016 in Brussels.


The book has reappeared in exhibitions at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York, late 2015, at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, as part of the Seth Siegelaub show: Beyond Conceptual Art, from December 2015 to April 2016. This led to a new publication in the Roma editions.


This is similar to the fate of Computer Art, born in the 60ties which suffered a period of oblivion, before being reborn again by the interest of young figurative artists, such as Cory Arcangel, Wade Guyton, Artie Vierkant or Sean Raspet. Copy Art reached a point of historical maturity, which allowed it to be re-read and to discover it as new once again.

Marie Maertens

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