Interned since his teens, André Robillard has built his life within the hospital. It was around the age of 30 that this French artist began to create rifles with materials found here and there. Discovered by Jean Dubuffet and encouraged by Michel Thévoz (then director of the Art Brut collection), he continues to create hybrid objects, from machine guns to Sputnik. André Robillard’s incredible story has participated to his international recognition. Present in the collections of the LaM (France), Whitworth (UK) or MAC’s (Belgium), he was particularly celebrated in the closing exhibition of la maison rouge (Paris) in 2018. A significant number of his works was donated to the Centre Pompidou in 2021.
When showing his works, André Robillard repeats: “Can you imagine, can you imagine…” Obviously, he is still amazed to have created these magnificent rifles, rockets and animals with his own hands. Confronted with this unique work, we gladly share his astonishment.
Born in 1931, the son of a forest ranger, André Robillard is hospitalized for mental disorders while still a teenager. After several attempts at being released, all of which are unsuccessful, he is recruited as an assistant to take care of the hospital’s sewage treatment plant, which gives him a real social status and a certain autonomy. That same year, at the age of thirty-three, he made his first rifle, which an enlightened aficionado sends to Jean Dubuffet who carefully preserves it in the collection of his Compagnie de l’Art Brut. Ten years later, Michel Thévoz, then curator of the very new art brut museum in Lausanne, fascinated by this rifle, invites Robillard to continue his work, which he does with a lot of enthusiasm.
André’s main source of inspiration is television. Nevertheless, after a visit to Lausanne during which he was deeply impressed by Auguste Forestier’s work, he broadens the range of his favorite subjects (guns, machine guns, spacecraft…) and creates a series of fantastic animals and characters. For his constructions, he uses everything he can get his hands on: old pipes, strings, cartridges, boxes, light bulbs, electric tubes, fabrics, and plastic, which he assembles with nails, adhesive tape and iron wire. Until very recently, he used to dispose of a large workshop shed, where he accumulated recycling materials. There, he used to live surrounded by animals (guinea pigs, birds, cats, pigeons) and showed great pride in his work, although never considering himself an artist.
Robillard’s creations are now part of several major art brut collections, including the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne and the LaM (Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Art brut) in Villeneuve-d’Ascq. They are notably exhibited in the exhibition of the Museum of Everything at the MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) in Tasmania as well as in L’envol ou le rêve de voler at the Maison rouge in Paris.
Preface : Stéphane Corréard
Foreword : Christian Berst
Catalog published to mark the exhibition preTENse, from September 12th to October 10th, 2015.