Jean Crotti left his literary studies at the University of Lausanne after a year to study fine art in Geneva from 1977-1979. Together with other young artists who were to make their mark on the Vaud art scene, such as Alain Huck and Jean-Luc Manz, he was a founder member of the M/2 collective, which held exhibitions and had a publishing activity in Vevey from 1987 to 1991. In the 1980s, he worked in figurative painting, influenced by the Neue Wilde and Transavangardia movements. Male portraits were already central to his work at this point, but the violence inherent in the expressive school he subscribed to gave way to a more sensual, delicate approach as he began to take elegant male figures from Italian fashion magazines to depict Pop Art style.
Crotti draws, engraves, and paints men found in various iconographic sources such as magazines, private photographs, and postcards. He justifies his use of extant images on the grounds of his own lack of virtuosity. He focuses on the subject, copying it by tracing or projection. He sometimes only copies the outline, producing a silhouette. For some works, as in this case, he takes a more pictorial approach, adding hatching, colour, and keeping some of the original decor.
Over thirty years, Crotti’s technique and media have varied: he has often used found materials such as flattened cardboard, old blankets, and table tops, particularly since his travels to Cairo between 1991 and 2002, where art materials were tricky to get hold of. Yet his overall project has always remained the same, constantly evoking his desire for men. He focuses on their poses, their bodies, their youth, and particularly the way they look at him. Igor’s come-hither gaze and his body, trapped in the narrow strip of wood, seem to have caught the artist’s eye and are seeking to conquer us in turn. The charm of a potential encounter and the ambiguity of flirtatious play are captured on the wood like a fragile memory.
Stéphanie Guex and Laurence Schmidlin (eds.), Impressions et dessins, exh. cat. Le Locle, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bern, Benteli, 2010.
Marco Costantini, Jean Crotti. Se perdre dans ses yeux, exh. cat. Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Sulgen, Niggli, 2009