“Salons, and particularly that of Automne, enable artists across several generations to gather together in total freedom from all the constraints of society.” Jacques Villeglé

Born in Quimper in 1926, Jacques Villeglé started a collection of objects found in Saint-Malo in 1947: steel wire, debris from the Atlantic Wall, etc. Assembling traces of civilisation, and more specifically those that are anonymous, he has been compiling a sociopolitical alphabet since 1969, in tribute to Professor S. Tchakhotine, author of The rape of the masses; the psychology of totalitarian political propaganda in 1939.

“Jacques Villeglé has been expanding his sociopolitical alphabet since the 1970s. In this process, he reuses the political, religious or esoteric symbols that have marked France and Europe since the post-war period and shaped contemporary history. His inspiration for creating this alphabet came from graffiti he saw in the subway in 1969, which took the name of American President Richard Nixon and combined it with political signs, and also by the reading of The Rape of the masses by political propaganda written by Serge Tchakhotine in 1939, which demonstrates the power of street symbols. As he travels around the city, Villeglé collects various symbols that he adapts to form original typography. These signs are then put together in an alphabet, enabling him to write expressions or quotes, like one shown here by Henri Michaux. They are displayed across various media such as posters and sculptures, or, more generally, as large paintings produced with stencils on the pavements and walls of the city.

The artist doesn’t express his own political or religious opinions, however: he defines himself rather as a “street archaeologist”. He tries to pass on the past in order to lay down a collective memory through an evolving alphabet that adapts itself to the great events and upheavals of the 20th century, be they wars, the expansion of the consumer society, or the emergence of the internet. This alphabet constitutes a language that speaks to all generations, where everyone can recognize themselves and thus participate in this collective memory. Villeglé is keen to disappear behind the community and let the multitude of anonymous street artists speak.”

Maëva Le Petit and Clemence Raccah, Students of the Ecole du Louvre