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Leading portrait artist's exhibit visits ASU

March 08, 2007

The ASU Art Museum has announced the opening of “Connivences: Stefan De Jaeger/Stéphane Janssen, A history of art, family and friends,” through May 12. The opening reception will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., April 13.

Janssen, among the world's leading collectors of contemporary art, commissioned photographer De Jaeger to create an ongoing series of portraits of his friends, family and major artists whose work he collects. Twenty years in the making, these “connivences” capture the extraordinary rapport that Janssen enjoys with these artists, conveyed by De Jaeger's ability to capture the qualities of each individual in the silent language of the image.

This show, the first major U.S. exhibition of De Jaeger's works, presents nearly 40 collaged-Polaroid compositions creating dynamic tableaux of subjects and their environments. De Jaeger's technique is to photograph the individual in fragments, from different perspectives and over time, building up each portrait piece by piece. His work thus communicates a contemporary notion of the self as a protean being, moving and changing even as it is being defined. Karel Appel, Pierre Alechinsky, Joel-Peter Witkin. Duane Michals, and Anthony Goicolea are just a few of the renowned artists whose life and work are celebrated in De Jaeger's fascinating portraits.

De Jaeger was the first to create collaged-Polaroid composition work in 1979.

“I was introduced to Stefan by Hergé, a famous cartoonist and creator of Tintin. This exhibition represents Stefan's portraits of my family, friends and the people around me since then,” Janssen says. “What impressed me most after his first portrait for me in 1983 still impresses me about Stefan – he is intuitive and intense – a true artist, he possesses the ability to transform images into art, not craft. It takes Stefan hours to do a portrait since he reaches the soul of people. Amazingly, in his work, Stefan often reveals things that I don't immediately see in people, but I discover later that his portrayal was correct. His work is not cliché, and this is why I love it.”

Janssen, a longtime benefactor of the ASU Art Museum, is rare among collectors for his commitment to both the art and artist over a lifetime. This passionate appreciation is evident in the lively audio commentary Janssen has prepared about the exhibition, providing each museum visitor a “personal” tour of the show that may be accessed by iPod or cell phone.

“I believe that Stéphane's strong loyalty to the ASU Art Museum stems from his admiration of our willingness to engage issues, often tough issues, in the work we show and the concepts we address,” says Marilyn Zeitlin, director of the ASU Art Museum. “Our educational mission is crucial for him – we are a training ground in which young people can learn the wonderful habit of loving and enjoying art, something that will stay with them all their lives. Stéphane and I agree that making art available to a broad audience is not just a question of education in the conventional sense, it is a matter of finding the thrill of discovery in art and ideas.”

The book “Connivences: Stefan De Jaeger/Stéphane Janssen, A history of art, family, and friends” is available at the ASU Art Museum store for $65 (non-members) and $40 (members).