Claude Rutault describes himself as a painter; and indeed, viewing any one of his pieces is uncontroversially an encounter with paint on canvas. Rutault, however, does not paint his pieces himself; and neither is he in the business of overseeing their production on the model of a producer, designer, or director running a factory, studio, or workshop. Instead, the mainspring of Rutault’s practice is the writing and issuing of a set of rules, caveats, instructions and procedures called 'de-finition/methods,' according to which a gallery, collector, or institution—known as the 'charge-taker'—agrees to 'actualise' a given work.Read More
The first of these de-finition/methods, created in 1973, provided the germ for about six hundred unique works to follow. de-finition/method #1 canvas per unit (1973) reads: 'a stretched canvas painted the same colour as the wall on which it’s hung. All commercially available formats can be used, be they rectangular, square, round or oval.' With this initial, relatively spare prescription, the characteristic features of Rutault’s work are evident: open-ended, ongoing, participatory, contractual, and mutually contingent with the conditions and environment in which it is to be actualised. The parameters, shape, colour and placement of the painting are constrained only by the ingenuity of its charge-taker in applying the rules established by its de-finition/method, the permutations and specific consequences of which cannot be controlled and could not have been wholly predicted by Rutault. If the charge-taker wishes to change the colour of his painting, he must change the colour of the wall as well. If the charge-taker wishes to repaint his wall, he must repaint the canvas to match. If he wishes to relocate the work, wall, painting, or both must be repainted according to the de-finition/method. Unforeseen varieties of works ensue, and report of their vagaries must be filed with Rutault—to his surprise, amusement, satisfaction, or conceivably, to his displeasure. In whichever case, he must live apart from his paintings if they are to continue living on their own; and at this juncture his role in relation to the work might be described, equally and alternately, as a referee of a game he has set into motion, as a parent watching his child sink or swim, or as a kind of cataloguer of the changes to and consequences of his own hard work.
Text courtesy Perrotin.