Supports/Surfaces

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. Artists associated with Supports/Sufaces, including such figures as André-Pierre Arnal, Pierre Buraglio, Louis Cane, 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.