Jean-Max Albert

Jean-Max Albert

Jean-Max Albert, Paris, September 2014
Born Jean-Max Louis Albert
(1942-07-25)25 July 1942
Loches, France
Nationality  France
Known for Painting, Sculpture, Literature,

Jean-Max Albert is a painter, sculptor, writer, and musician. He has published theory, artist's books, a collection of poems, plays and novels inspired by quantic physics. He perpetuated a reflexion initiated by Paul Klee and Edgar Varèse on the transposition of musical structures into formal constructions. He created plant architectures which come close to Site-specific art, Environmental sculpture and Generative art.


Jean-Max Albert French: [ʒɑ̃maks albɛʁ] was born in 1942, in Loches, France. He studied at the Ecole Régionale des Beaux-Arts d'Angers then at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Paris, with frequent visits to the Louvre, across the river (cf An Afternoon in the Louvre). His student friends introduced him to the works of Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, Louis Kahn, Carlo Scarpa… Albert was also a trumpet player (1962–64),[1] joining Henri Texier’s quintet with Alain Tabarnouval in the beginnings of Free Jazz.[2] The group performed in clubs, festivals and concerts.[3]

Photon Propagation, Model, 2013

In 1975 he initiated the group show Serres in François Horticultural Greenhouses, Magny-in-Vexin.[4] Sculptor Mark di Suvero invited him to New York City, the first of many visits to United States. In 1981 he met Sara Holt, whose sculpture and photographs were inspired by astronomy. They collaborated and carried out various public art projects.[5] Travels in Europe, North Africa, Middle East.[6]

In 1985 he took part to Ars Technica Association connected to the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie uniting philosophers, artists, scientists such as Jean-Marc Levy-Leblond, Claude Faure, Sara Holt, Piero Gilardi, Jean-Claude Mocik, reflecting on the relationship between art and new technologies.[7] In 1990, he was commissioned by the architects Wylde-Oubrerie as collaborating artist for the realisation of Miller House[8] in Lexington. Then invited to give lectures and workshops for the University of Architecture of Kentucky and then for the Art Center of Design in Pasadena.

Edgar Varese, in his comments, often refers to solid geometry[9] and György Ligeti to static music.[10] His experience in the musical field enabled Jean-Max Albert to exchange on these subjects with musicians such as : György Ligeti, Steve Lacy, Barney Wilen, François Tusques.[11] He creates monumental trellis-works : Iapetus (1985) which refers to the structure of Thelonious Monk's ‘’Misterioso’’ »,[12] Ligeti (1994), which refers to Ligeti’s «static sonorous surfaces». A book and exhibition followed : Thelonious Monk Architecte (2001). A collaboration with pianist and composer François Tusques results in 80 short films: Around the Blues in 80 Worlds (2008).[13][14] With Jean-Claude Mocik, he is coauthor of the project Midi-Pile started in 1994.[15]

Project for a monument to calmodulin,1991

Beside sculptures related to music, he conceived a project dedicated to the vegetation itself, in terms of biological activity. The utopian Calmoduline Monument is based on the property of a protein, calmodulin, to bond selectively to calcium. Exterior physical constraints (wind,rain, etc.) modify the electric potential of the cellular membranes of a plant and consequently the flux of calcium. However, the calcium controls the expression of the calmoduline gene. The plant can thus, when there is a stimulus, modify its « typical » growth pattern. So the basic principle of this monumental sculpture is that to the extent that they could be picked up and transported, these signals could be enlarged, translated into colors and shapes, and show the plant’s « decisions ». This permanent show, installed in a public place, would suggest a level of fundamental biological activity.[16][17]


Portraits of the Loire ; Framing Sculptures ; Que voit-on quand on ne regarde pas ? (What do you see when you are not looking ?)[18] or subjects more episodical : Memories of a Train Journey ; Thelonious Monk Architect ; Afternoon in the Louvre or The Carpenters’ Design, Albert’s painting are not limited to a particular style. He likes to cite Chinese masters of the classical period, mentioned by Matisse [19] who taught the student to identify with his subject: to paint the tree in its expansion, the rock in its rugged massiveness… and mentions that the precept can be also found in General semantics by Alfred Korzybski : «To be efficient, a language should be similar in its structure to the structure of the event it is supposed to represent». This idea that an artwork should be autonomous — epoch and even author's identity, taking second place — has provoked vigorous discussions with artists friends, notably with painter Joan Mitchell.[20]


Monumental sculpture

Around 1973, a meeting with the architect Louis Kahn, led him to compare the relationship between paint and canvas with that of vegetation on trellis.[21] Jean-Max Albert then revisited the tradition of trellis-work,[22][23] 18th-century utopic architecture and, finally, created vegetal architecture which came close to Land art and Environmental Sculpture.[24][25] It was comparable to the work of Gordon Matta-Clark, or Nils Udo, his neighbour in the Wissenschaftszentrum exhibition in Bonn in 1979.[26] From Vicenza[27] at the Hôtel de Sully, Paris, 1975 (in collaboration with Fougeras Lavergnolle) until the project O=C=O for the "Parco d' Arte Vivente" in Torino, 2007 (by way of the Festival of the Gardens of Chaumont, 1996), Albert created many architectural and vegetal sculptures on trellis-work in the field of Site-specific art, Environmental sculpture and Generative art.[28]

Observation sculptures (= Sculptures de visées)

Observation Sculptures
Parc de La Villette, Paris 1986
Espace Détaché
Observation Sculpture, 2002

While monumental sculpture is meant to be installed within an urban or rustic space, Albert’s Observation Sculpture aims to concentrate the surrounding environment in the sculpture. When looking in the Observation Sculpture through its sights (an aperture or circles), the space beyond is (roughly) framed. Combining the different perspectives framed, the little sculpture, usually in bronze, takes shape after the space it is aiming at. An Observation Sculpture proposes a summary of this space concentrated, agglomerated and stuck together in a kind of core, like a geometric model of the site’s character.[29][30]


Albert realized Un carré pour un square, Cube fantôme and Reflet anamorphose,[31] three pieces according to anamorphosis principle as described by Matilde Marcolli : « If the vector space one starts with is the 3-dimensional space, whose vectors have 3-coordinates v = (x1, x2, x3), then, as long as v is nonzero and a real number λ is also nonzero, the vector v = (x1, x2, x3) and the vector λv = (λx1, λx2, λx3) point along the same straight line and we consider them as being the same point of our projective space. » [32]

Public works

  • Vicenza, Hotel de Sully, Paris 1977
  • Attique, Künstler-Garten, Wissenschaftszentrum, Bonn, Germany, 1979
  • Iapetus,[33] Parc de l'école des beaux-arts, Angoulême, 1985, 45°39’15.246’’N0°8’54.834’’E
  • Rayon, Centre Culturel Français, Damascus, Syria, 1986
  • Sculptures de visées,[34][35] and Reflet anamorphose Parc de la Villette, Paris, 1986, 48°53’33.8’’N2°23’26’’E
  • Cube fantôme, ZI de Goussainville, 1986
  • Autumn in Peking, South Pasadena, USA, 1987, 34°6’40’435’’N118°8’33.619’’W
  • Vers l'étoile polaire, Parc des Maillettes, Melun Sénart, 1987
  • Un carré pour un square,[36][37] Place Frehel, Paris, 1988
  • Une horloge végétale, Square Héloïse et Abelard, 24 rue Dunois, Paris, 1988, 48°49’52.745N2°22’13.12’’E
  • Planches,[38] Terrasse du Musée de la Toile de Jouy, à Jouy-en-Josas, 1990, 48°46’8.591’’N2°9’5.868’’E
  • Ligeti, Rectorat de Rouen, Rouen, 1994, 49°26’35’’N1°5’4.6’’E
  • Auriga, Rond-point Montaigne, Angers, 1995, 47°27’59’’N 0°31’30’’W
  • Tombeau de Bartillat, Etrépilly, 1997, 49°2’18’’N 2°55’53.2’’E


Lumen Poem, 1985







Choreographies and compositions

Kaluza, ballet, 2013


Exhibition Hôtel de Sully, Paris, 1977


Vase jaillissant, étude, 2012


Free Jazz, 1973

Public Collections

Signification as factor of order, 2014

Notes and references

  1. Dictionnaire du jazz, Sous la direction de Philippe Carles, Jean-Louis Comolli et André Clergeat. Éditions Robert Laffont, coll. "Bouquins", 1994
  2. Cité de la Musique
  3. Musique Française
  4. Michel Cosnil-Lacoste, Cimaises en rase campagne, Le Monde, 7 July 1975
  5. Bruno Suner, Relier ciel et ville, Urbanisme n°219, 1987
  6. Realization for the French Cultural Center in Damascus, Syria, 1986
  8. Miller House Miller House, GA n°35, July 1992. (in English)
  9. Philippe Lalitte, « Rythme et espace chez Varèse », Filigrane ,
  10. Un entretien entre György Ligeti et Josef Häusler « d’Atmosphères à Lontano», La musique en jeu, Editions du Seuil, 1974
  11. Jedediah Sklower, Free Jazz, la catastrophe féconde, L'Harmattan, Paris, 2006
  12. Michel Ragon, Jean-Max Albert «Iapetus», L’art abstrait vol.5, Éditions Maeght, Paris, 1989
  16. Space in profile/ L'espace de profil,
  17. Intra-and Intercellular Communications in Plants, Millet & Greppin Editors, INRA, Paris, 1980, p.117 (in English)
  18. Musée Paul Delouvrier, Que voit-on quand on ne regarde pas ? 1989
  19. Henri Matisse, ‘’Ecrits et propos sur l’art‘’, Herman, Paris, 1972, p.167
  20. Patricia Albers, Joan Mitchell : Lady Painter, A life, Knof, 2011
  21. Jean-Louis Pradel, Les monuments de treillage de Jean-Max Albert, Opus n°65, 1978
  22. L'ivre de pierre
  23. Hubert Beylier, Bénédicte Leclerc, Treillage de jardin du XIV au XX siècle, Éditions du patrimoine, Paris, 2000, p. 172-173
  24. Jean-Max Albert O=C=O, Franco Torriani, Dalla Land arte alla bioarte, Hopefulmonster editore Torino, 2007, p. 64-70
  25. Jean-Paul Pigeat, Jean-Max Albert et Emilio Ambasz, «Le nymphée et la profondeur», Manuel des jardins de Chaumont, 1996
  26. Wolfgang Becker, Sculpture Nature, Centre d'Arts Plastiques Contemporain, Bordeaux, 1980
  27. Dominique Richir, Tuteurs Fabuleux, Opus n°64, octobre 1976
  28. Bruno Suner, L'art du passage à Saint Nazaire, Urbanisme n°214, 1986
  29. Jardin-de-la-Treille, wikimapia
  30. Bruno Suner, Les sculptures de visées du Parc de La Villette, Urbanisme n°215, 1986
  32. Matilde Marcolli, The notion of Space in Mathematics through the lens of Modern Art, Century Books, Pasadena, July 2016
  33. FRAC Poitou-Charente
  34. Les jardins du parc de la Villette
  35. Parc de La Villette (in English)
  36. Fresques et murs-peint parisiens
  37. Monique Faux, L'art renouvelle la ville, Editions Skira, Paris 1992
  38. Musée de la toile de Jouy
  39. Musée d’Art Contemporain, Marseille, L'Espace de profil/ Space in Profile
  40. Frédéric Mialet, Exercice sur le vide, D'A n°45, mai 1994
  41. Le nouvel Attila
  42. La lucarne des écrivains
  43. Derry O'Sullivan, Ceamara Jean-Max Albert, An Guth, Dublin, 2008, (in Gaelic)
  44. Derry O'Sullivan, Caemara/Ceamara, Estepa Editions, Paris 2010
  45. "Lotus international"
  46. L'art du jazz
  48. Bay area reading, Berkeley University, USA, 2007
  49. Free Jazz Cinéma journées approxinématives, Théâtre de Montreuil, 2007
  50. Clifford Allen, ‘’François Tusques’’ The New York City Jazz Record p10, June 2011 (in English)
  51. Projections : La Vitrine, Paris; American Center, Paris ; Global Village, New York ; The Kitchen, New York, 1981. Julie Gustafson, Global Village Program 1981, New York
  52. Dominique Richir, Morgane Amalia, Opus n°77, 1980
  53. Sarah Berges Dance
  54. Carole Naggar, Lumen poème, Centre Régional d'Art Contemporain, Rosny-s-Seine, France, 1984
  55. Jean-Louis Pradel, Lumen de Sara Holt et Jean-Max Albert, L'événement du jeudi, 8 novembre 1989
  56. Jean-Louis Pradel, Jean-Max Albert, L’Evénement du jeudi, 17 septembre 1987
  57. France Huser, Jean-Max Albert, Galerie Charles Sablon, Le nouvel observateur, 25 septembre 1987
  58. Anne Dagbert, Jean-Max Albert, Galerie Charles Sablon, Art Press n°119, 1987
  59. Sarah Mc Fadden ‘’Jean-Max Albert «Sculptures»’’, The Bulletin n°24, Bruxelles, June 16th 1994
  60. Un pavillon de treillage à Pau, Biennale de Paris, CCI Centre Georges Pompidou, Éditions Academy, Paris, 1980
  61. Jean-Louis Pradel, Actuele Franse Kunst, International Cultureel Centrum-Antwerpen, 1982
  62. F Reynaert, Inventer 89, Libération, 13 octobre 1987
  63. Fragmentations a constructed world
  64. Le musée côté jardin
  65. Dalla Land arte alla bioarte
  66. Tables à Desseins
  67. [Du dessin à la sculpture
  68. Centre Pompidou
  69. Fond National d'Art Contemporain
  70. Musée Paul Delouvrier
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