Guy de Cointet, Man of Letters
Nicknamed "the Duchamp of LA," Guy de Cointet's enigmatic career expanded the parameters of the conceptual art movement that emerged from 1970s Los Angeles. Born in Paris, de Cointet lived in New York from 1965 to 1968, when he moved to Los Angeles to be Larry Bell's studio assistant. As Bell recalled, "[de Cointet] was a very eloquent guy but he was very private, very quiet. To pull anything out of him, you had to really go after him."
De Cointet's mysterious persona was likely seeded early — as a young man, he developed an interest in cryptography and the riddle-poems of French surrealist Raymond Roussel. As his practice developed, de Cointet continued to explore language through performance and drawing, incorporating random phrases and words gleaned from popular culture. Within his theatrical productions, de Cointet's paintings and art objects functioned as props for translating feeling and emotion to his audience. As Matthew Brannon wrote of this slippery triangulation of objects, actors, and audience: "We [can] fully understand that the art is not only not the props on the stage, nor the performance itself — but us. Us as an audience watching such a performance."