Dominique Lévy and Galerie Perrotin will jointly present Pierre Soulages, the first American exhibition in ten years devoted to the most significant and internationally recognized living artist of France. The show will fill the historic landmark building at 909 Madison Avenue where both galleries reside, presenting a group of new large-scale paintings that reveal the rigor and atemporal power of a 94-year old master known as “the painter of black and light.” Born in 1919, Soulages is among the few artists still at work from the explosive postwar period when New York City emerged as the center of the art world, the place where American innovation and European traditions collided and coalesced into a new dominant school of gestural painting. By juxtaposing Soulages’ revelatory recent paintings with a group of his important postwar works, Pierre Soulages will highlight profound inter-connections between Europe and America in modern and contemporary art while challenging certainties on the subject.
On view through June 27th, Pierre Soulages introduces fourteen recent paintings from the artist’s ongoing Outrenoir series – metaphysically potent canvases with slashing black architectonics -- alongside seminal works created in the 1950s and 60s, all on loan from major museums and important private collections. During the years following World War II, Soulages exhibited extensively in America, establishing friendships with New York peers Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, and Helen Frankenthaler, among many others. His work thrived in the U.S. market, championed by James Johnson Sweeney, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (previously curator at The Museum of Modern Art), and by legendary gallerist Sam Kootz. Perhaps it was Soulages’ feeling of belonging to no particular city or country that aided his success: He has said his only real language “was that of modern art,” and his undiminished fascination with that language continues to shape Soulages’ paintings today, enabling him to transmit light with black.
Pierre Soulages is accompanied by a catalogue featuring an interview with the artist by Hans Ulrich Obrist, and essays by John Yau and Alain Badiou. The exhibition coincides with the opening in late May of the Musée Soulages in Rodez, France, the artist’s birthplace. The new museum complex will extend the public presence of Soulages’ art in the Aveyron area of the Midi-Pyrénées region of Southern France, where in 1994 he completed a celebrated cycle of stained glass windows at the 8th century Romanesque Abbey-Church of Sainte-Foy in Conques. Encompassing 104 unique compositions in translucent glass, Soulages’ windows at Stainte-Foy are today considered an art pilgrimage destination.
The exhibition Pierre Soulages also coincides with release of the first major book devoted to the artist’s years of intense engagement with United States. Distributed by D.A.P., 'Soulages in America’ explores the artist’s work in the 1950s and 60s, delving into his presence and prominence in the U.S. during the heyday of Abstract Expressionism, the central art movement of postwar America. Densely illustrated with archival photographs, letters, and images of the artist’s works of the period, ‘Soulages in America’ features an essay by Harry Cooper, head of modern art at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., as well as an extensive interview with Soulages by journalist Philippe Ungar. ‘Soulages in America’ examines a pivotal moment in the artist’s career and in doing so sheds light on Soulage’s ongoing Outrenoir paintings, the fruits of a highly independent trajectory. Soulages belongs to a generation for whom America was synonymous with a new world with a bold new spirit, for which he was quick to feel an affinity that remains in tact: “My attitude toward the history of painting was close to that of many young American painters, who weren’t bogged down by preconceived notions.”
b y #Andrea Schwan