Scope and Contents
The Gil J Wolman Papers consists of correspondence, writings, printed material, artworks, photographs, audio recordings, and other materials by or relating to French artist Gil J Wolman (1929-1995) and his milieu. The collection documents the early Lettrist movement through correspondence, writings of Wolman and others, and material related to Lettrist films, especially Wolman’s L’Anticoncept and Isidore Isou’s Traité de bave et d'éternité. Correspondents include Noël Arnaud, Serge Berna, Jean Louis Brau, Guy Debord, François Dufrêne, Isidore Isou, Maurice Lemaître, Dominique Meens, and others. Of note are preparatory material for the Internationale lettriste periodical and mégapneumie notations, as well as Lettrist poems, screenplays, and theoretical texts in manuscript or typescript authored and annotated by the movement’s leading figures, especially by Debord, Isou, Brau, and Dufrêne. The collection also holds the unpublished last pages of Guy Debord’s “Manifeste pour une construction des situations” (1953).
Additionally, the collection documents Wolman’s literary works, sound poetry, and professional career in the Paris gallery scene. Drafts, printing tests, and visuals for Wolman's artists’ books created from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s constitute a large part of the collection, and feature, among others, Dühring, Dühring (1979), L’homme séparé (1979), Wolman résumé des chapitres précédents (1981), Les inhumations: suivi de Peinture dépeinte (1995). Evidence of Wolman’s artistic production include exhibition catalogs, invitation cards, administrative records, and a small number of original artworks, including an art scotch canvas and prints.
- 1937 - 2011
- Majority of material found within 1950 - 1995
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
Box 49 (audiocassette): Restricted fragile material. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.
50-52 (record album storage): Restricted fragile material. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.
Boxes 66-67: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.
Conditions Governing Use
Immediate Source of Acquisition
37.96 Linear Feet ((62 boxes) + 3 broadside, 1 broadside oversize, 3 record album storage)
Biographical / Historical
Joseph Wolman (1929-1995), best known by the name Gil J Wolman, was a French artist whose work spanned the visual arts, poetry, sound poetry, and filmmaking. Closely associated with the Lettrist movement, Wolman was among the founding members of the Internationale lettriste.
Born in 1929 in Paris, Wolman spent part of his youth working in wool clothing manufacture, and as a journalist. In 1950, along with Maurice Lemaître, Jean Louis Brau, Serge Berna, and Guy Debord, Wolman joined the young Lettrist movement led by Isidore Isou since 1945. Other figures of significance to the Lettrist movement’s evolution from the 1940s to the 1960s include Gabriel Pomerand, François Dufrêne, Jacques Spacagna, and Roberto Altmann.
The years following Wolman’s integration to the movement witnessed a period of collaboration among the Lettrists, the production of experimental films, and the publication of several magazines. In 1952, internal disagreements led to the creation of the break-off group Internationale lettriste by Debord, Wolman, Berna, and Brau. This new, radical Lettrism in turn influenced other European avant-garde groups interested in the intersections of art, politics, and society, such as the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus (founded by Asger Jorn, Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio, and Piero Simondo in 1955 in Italy), the Internationale situationniste (a collective led by Debord created in 1957), and Gruppe Spur (a German collective active from 1957-1965). Excluded from the Internationale lettriste in 1957, Wolman founded the Deuxième internationale lettriste in 1963 with Brau and Dufrêne.
Wolman’s contributions to Lettrism are numerous, and include the invention of mégapneumes in the early 1950s (sound poems articulated solely with breath), and the production of content for several publications (Internationale lettriste, Deuxième internationale lettriste, Potlatch, Ion, etc). Wolman was also involved in Lettrist experimental cinema, not only through his own film L’Anticoncept (1951), but also appearing on the soundtrack of Isou’s Traité de bave et d’éternité (1950-51) and Debord’s Hurlements en faveur de Sade (1951). Finally, Wolman theorized the technique of “détournement” with Debord in 1956, a technique that would become central to both Debord’s Situationist writings, and Wolman’s future artistic practices.
From the 1960s onwards, Wolman actively participated in the Paris art gallery scene. In 1963, he invented “art scotch”, politically subversive collages of newspaper content extracted from their original pages with translucent adhesive tape. In the 1970s and 1980s, Wolman experimented with photocopy art and the making of artists’ books, and developed the “mouvement séparatiste” (the disruptive insertion of blank spaces in his artworks and texts). In addition to exhibiting in numerous solo and collective shows, Wolman served as editor of the exhibition directory L’Officiel des galeries. Starting circa 1979, Wolman self-published small runs of poetry and art books through his “Éditions inconnues” (Unknown editions).
Wolman met his life partner, artist and writer Charlotte Wolman (née Mandel), at a Lettrist recital in 1958. He passed away on July 3, 1995.
Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections as they are acquired, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.
These materials have been arranged and described according to national and local standards. For more information, please refer to the Beinecke Manuscript Unit Processing Manual.
In 2017, this collection was processed at a basic level, which included rehousing and minimal organization while maintaining the box order in which the collection was originally received.
Full processing of the collection was completed in 2018. Contents of the folders were verified against the dealer inventory and the original box labels (largely in Charlotte Wolman's hand); materials were sorted within and across boxes; and description at the file level was provided.
- Anticoncept (Motion picture)
- Arnaud, Noël, 1919-2003
- Artists -- France -- 20th Century
- Artists' books (books) -- France -- 20th century
- Audiovisual materials
- Authors, French -- 20th Century -- Archives
- Berna, Serge
- Brau, Jean Louis, 1930-1985
- Debord, Guy, 1931-1994
- Dufrêne, François, 1930-1982
- Experimental films -- France
- French literature -- 20th Century
- Internationale lettriste
- Internationale situationniste
- Isou, Isidore, 1925-2007
- Lemaître, Maurice, 1926-
- Lettrism -- France
- Lettrism in motion pictures
- Lettrist literature -- France -- Paris -- 20th Century
- Meens, Dominique
- Screen prints
- Sound recordings
- Traité de bave et d'éternité (Motion picture)
- Wolman, Joseph, 1929-1995
- Guide to the Gil J Wolman Papers
- by Ève Bourbeau-Allard
- May 2018
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
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