Since the 1960s, and a few decades ahead of all the other forms now classed as "street art", Ernest Pignon-Ernest has led, with astonishing receptivity, an adventure like no other, combining technical mastery, existential probity and the ability to "poetically inhabit the world". His career has achieved the rare feat of reconciling uncompromising ethical standards with a singular, demanding and innovative artistic expression. So much so that some of his images (of those shot during the Paris Commune and his vagabond Rimbaud in particular), reproduced in hundreds of thousands of copies, have become veritable icons of modern times.
Through the powerful, timeless quality of its images, and the acuity with which they are inscribed in the real world (through the meaningful choice of sites and moments), Pignon-Ernest's work turns the street into a plastic, poetic, frictional and reminiscent space, ineluctably merging place and time into the work itself, giving them the character of ready-mades without going through the museum process.
From Chile to Soweto, from Algiers to Naples, from Mahmoud Darwich's Palestine to the beach in Ostia where Pasolini was murdered, from abortion to exclusion, from AIDS to immigration, for Pignon-Ernest, confronting the dramas of our time and exploring individual destinies at odds with the norm or with myths to be revived, means taking a new risk every time – the same risk that haunted Rimbaud when he strove to "to find the place itself and the code”.