Hervé Guibert
Exhibition dates: January 6 - February 10, 2019
Opening reception: Sunday, January 6th, 6–8pm

Press Release

Callicoon Fine Arts is pleased to present an exhibition of photographs by Hervé Guibert (1955–1991). The exhibition includes 15 vintage silver gelatin prints created between 1976 and 1988, many of which have never been seen in the United States. Bodies, specifically the male nude and Guibert’s own self-portraits, are the focus of this exhibition. 

Friends and lovers are captured on black-and-white film, seemingly demure or candid. Guibert considered himself “a suspicious practitioner” of photography. These images refrain from truth-telling, even if their apparent innocence or romanticism suggests otherwise. Iconic images of Thierry, one of Guibert’s lovers and a frequent subject, speak to this mirage — Thierry’s naked body is veiled by a floor-length gauze in two images. In one photograph, his body is tucked behind a door-gate outside of a stone home; in another, Thierry’s body is transported inside to a nondescript domestic scene. The soft materiality of body and fabric intertwine.

Guibert’s use of light and dark emphasizes entanglement of the sensory. A heightened contrast in these images accentuates the contours of ribs or the spine beneath skin, or a frame-within-a-frame found in several images. Sleeping, laying, bathing, bending bodies often have the recognizable features of their faces obscured. Light always finds the body, but not necessarily the likeness of Guibert’s subjects. His lens offers us fragments and perceptions to navigate.

Guibert’s writing extends the exploration. The Mausoleum of Lovers, translated into English for the first time by Nathanaël and published in 2014 by Nightboat Books, is comprised of Guibert’s journals from 1976 through 1991. In 2017, Semiotext(e) published Crazy for Vincent, translated by Christine Pichini but written in 1989, where Guibert narrates the unexpected death of Vincent, his lover of six years. At moments poetic, violent, and romantic, Guibert works backwards from Vincent’s death in November 1988 to the year they met. Several images of Vincent appear in the gallery, but his likeness is in constant flux between innocent child, delinquent, and moody model. In these images, bodies are the texture of Guibert’s fictional narrative, swept up in the entanglement of the self and other. Rather than offer a version of the truth, he suggests a distance innate to observation and to photography.

Hervé Guibert (1955-1991) was a French writer and photographer. A critic for Le Monde, he was the author of some thirty books, most notably To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life, which presents an intimate portrait of Michel Foucault. Guibert became a media figure in the public dialogue around AIDS, challenging perspectives on the disease, sexuality and self-representation. Guibert also produced an important body of photographs, which was exhibited in 2011 as a retrospective by the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris. A correspondent with Roland Barthes, Guibert added to the critical discourse on photography and in 1982 published a book on the subject, L’image Fantôme (Ghost Image)La pudeur ou l’impudeur, Guibert’s only film, follows the last months of his life in plenary detail. Hervé Guibert died at the age of 36 in Paris following a failed suicide attempt. His journals, The Mausoleum of Lovers, Journals 1976–1991, were published posthumously in France and an English translation appeared in 2014 (New York: Nightboat Books). Most recently, the magazine Tinted Window debuted with their entire first issue dedicated to Guibert — this issue includes the first English language translation of his text, “Flash Paper” (1984), and several texts that divulge Guibert’s lasting impact on photographic discourse and the literary community. 

Callicoon Fine Arts is located at 49 Delancey Street between Forsyth and Eldridge Streets. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Sunday, 12 to 6pm. The nearest subway stops are the B and D trains at Grand Street and the F, J, M and Z trains at Delancey-Essex Street.