His father, a dermatologist, wanted him to be a diplomat, but after his schooling at the École Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague, Télémaque chose to attend the Art Center in Port-au-Prince.  Setting off for New York in 1957, he enrolled in the Art Students League, but had a hard time making ends meet.  He moved to Paris at the end of 1961 to try his luck there.  His participation in the Salon Latino-Américain in 1962 was noticed by Édouard Jaguer, who introduced him to the surrealist group.  There he was not so much supported by André Breton as by the younger generation around him, particularly José Pierre, who appreciated the way he used elements from comic strips, graffiti and the Banania poster, to create outlandish paintings, which earned him the distinction of being the only representative of surrealist pop art.  Instead of imitating the Americana artists, he countered them with his own style, defined by Anne Tronche as, “the dissociation of images within a play-structure.”  In 1964, with Bernard Rancillac, he organized the exhibition, Mythologies Quotidiennes, at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris, and had his first two solo shows at Galerie Mathias Fels in Paris and the Hanover Gallery in London.  Télémaque said, “I would like to be a sort of indicator of paradoxical objects.”  What he called the paradoxical object was “an object endowed with an inner mischievousness”-briefs, a corset, a tent, a safe, sport shoes, scissors, a cane, etc.  He created the unusual by the intrusion of such an object in an ensemble; for example, in Le Poète rêve sa mort (1964), he depicted a cable car in the sky attacked by a giant tennis shoe.  Petit Célibataire un peu nègre et assez joyeux (1964, Centre Georges-Pompidou, Paris), which appeared on the cover of Art Press, is the image of a man’s head covered with a pair of briefs.  His assemblage-paintings seemed like parodies of Rauschenberg’s combines, but his motive was always playful.  In 1966 he gave up oils paints for acrylics, and his technique became three-dimensional.  He articipated in the last international surrealist exhibition under André Breton’s patronage, the Eleventh International Exhibition of Surrealism, L’Écart Absolu, in 1965, and after the poet’s death, collaborated with his disciples on the review L’Archibras.  In 1970 he helped José Pierre organize the exhibition, Surrealism, at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm and did a series of five paintings, Suite à Magritte, as a tribute to the artist.  Télémaque unquestionably belongs to postwar surrealism, even though his series Selles (1978) and his Maisons rurales (1980) no longer derive from his earlier inspiration.  Nonetheless, he occasionally recaptured the accents that made him stand out in the movement, particularly in his collages with movie posters from 1991, and his drawings with charcoal and coffee grounds from 1994. 

Hervé Télémaque

Born 1937 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. 

L'Âne et Sarko, Acrylic on Canvas, 2003