In the mid-fifties arose a new movement in reaction to Abstract Expressionism and such innovators as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Hans Hartung and Georges Matihieu.In the sixties this new movement conquered the world, with leaders that included Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Indiana and Tom Wesselman, and was given the name Pop Art by the English art critic Lawrence Alloway. But at the time it would never have occurred to the young artist Philippe LEBEAU that he would be pushed in that direction.Philippe LEBEAU’s work refuses to be summarized under a single label. It comprises more than the recording on canvas of everyday objects, mass media and trivial things from our over-saturated consumer society. There is an undertone to his work, a philosophy in which the artist tries to put into perspective the ordinariness and Americanization of our European society, to explain it, to expose it and to communicate it in an unusual way to those of the same mind.

Philippe LEBEAU is a product of the “École Supérieur des Beaux-Arts St-Luc” in Liège, where he graduated in graphic art and painting. For a short time, driven by his admiration for Salvador Dali, he went down the road of Surrealism. However, in 1981 he made a complete about turn. An unhoped trip to the United States brought him into contact with The American Dream. The American lifestyle, that uninhibited way of being and moving, that inexhaustible power of imagination of a people in search of its own culture, took him to the museums and cultural centres, where he was fascinated by the diversity and sense of relativity in Pop Art. The work of Christo, Rauschenberg and Warhol took a permanent hold on him and incontestably inspired him in his quest for his own firm style, which, after personal contact with Jan Hoet, the director of SMAK, developed an easily recognisable, atmospheric and lively character, with playful or highly philosophical undertones. America, Documentera and Hoet had put Philippe LEBEAU on the right track.

In 1987 at what was then the Pantheon Gallery in Knokke, LEBEAU assembled a sensitive series of works that subtly reflected the atmosphere and experiences of his many trips to America. This exhibition, called ‘From Coast to Coast’, was highly successful and LEBEAU was visited there by George Mathieu, the philosopher and member of the Académie Française, who is also one of the most renowned abstract painters in France. The words of praise Mathieu wrote at that time became the introduction to the catalogue of LEBEAU’s next exhibition, ‘Good Morning America’, in 1989.

This confirmed his artistic breakthrough. The artist had found a course of his own to follow. Inspired by the highly personalised car number plates – which differed from state to state – and the hyper realistic depiction of American fantasy, kitschness and inventiveness, he made his renewed work into a chronicle of his treks around the new continent. Because of the ‘Americanisation’ he saw growing in Europe, he abstracted certain elements in order, as it were, to contain and check the American way of thinking.Yet LEBEAU remained under the spell of the ‘American Dream’. He was entranced by the work of Arman And Roberto Longo, but several encounters with the American-Bulgarian packaging artist CHRISTO, and his admiration for his projects, took him down new paths.