Cherry and Martin is pleased to present its second exhibition focusing on the ground-breaking French Supports/Surfaces group. Featured in the exhibition are works made by a number of artists associated with Supports/Surfaces between 1963 and the present, including André-Pierre Arnal, Marc Devade, Noël Dolla, Daniel Dezeuze, Jean-Michel Meurice, Bernard Pagès, Patrick Saytour and Claude Viallat.
Supports/Surfaces is one of the major avant-garde groups of 60s and 70s France. The artworks made by these artists are breathtaking, and resonate as deeply today as they did when they were first made. Supports/Surfaces bears comparison with the rigorous intellectual attitude of contemporaneous movements like Minimalism, Arte Povera and Mono-Ha, and the expanded painting approach of artistic peers like Alan Shields, Lynda Benglis and Ed Clark.
As curator Bernard Ceysson points out, “The cohesive element binding Supports/Surfaces artists was their own theoretical debate, which took place among a number of artists over a period of time in various manifestations.” The curators of the recent Hunter College exhibition, “Critical Gestures/Contested Spaces: Art & Politics in 1960s France,” write, “The theoretical, political and cultural terrain of 1960s France was characterized by anti-colonialism, commodity fetishism and extreme leftism. Operating within this zeitgeist, artists experimented with a range of practices that questioned authorship, explored new collective forms of art-making, and opened up new modes of aesthetic experience.”
Like those artists associated with the earlier Nouveau Réalisme of Pierre Restany and Yves Klein, or the BMPT group of the late 60s (Daniel Buren, Olivier Mosset, Michel Parmentier, Niele Toroni), Supports/Surfaces interrogated the growing post-war mass-media driven consumer state, famously described by Guy Debord as the ‘spectacle.’ As the name would suggest, Supports/Surfaces artists included in this exhibition specifically oriented themselves towards the physical properties of the painting itself: stretcher and canvas, paint and paintbrush. André-Pierre Arnal, Marc Devade, Noël Dolla, Daniel Dezeuze, Jean-Michel Meurice, Bernard Pagès, Patrick Saytour and Claude Viallat took on the tools, materials and processes of painting in radical new ways to address the actions of maker and viewer alike.
One of the earliest works in the exhibition, André-Pierre Arnal’s “Froissage” (1968) uses folded fabric and spray paint to create an abstraction; his “Pliage” (1974) is also folded, with the oil paint soaking through the fabric in layers, each slightly less saturated than the last. Jean-Michel Meurice’s works from 1963-1972 use new industrial materials like Plexiglas and aluminum foil to make thrilling colorful works. Bernard Pagès’s floor and wall sculptures use everyday materials like wood and rubber.
The repeating motif of Claude Viallat - a sponge soaked with paint - has replaced the brushstroke as the sign of the artist; moreover, Viallat’s canvas works hang loosely, tacked and without stretchers, on the wall. Patrick Saytour also prefers a repeating mark in his early works, while Marc Devade affirms the flatness of the surface by using inks that stain the canvas through its entire thickness. Daniel Dezeuze points to the stretcher as an intellectual apparatus, exhibiting only its framework as a work of art in and of itself. Noël Dolla uses everyday materials like tea towels and handkerchiefs and cloth diapers; his repetition of dots as an infinite mark transforms the field of painting and modernist aesthetics.
Cherry and Martin would like to thank Galerie Bernard Ceysson for their help in organizing this exhibition. The 2016 Hunter College exhibition, “Critical Gestures/Contested Spaces: Art & Politics in 1960s France,” was a pleasure and a revelation.
(Cherry and Martin archive)
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