Josef Albers, Martin Barré, André Cadere, Dan Flavin, Ann Veronica Janssens, Imi Knœbel, Kenneth Noland, Claude Rutault, Keith Sonnier, Frank Stella, Anne Truitt and Heimo Zobernig
Fondation CAB Saint-Paul-de-Vence presents an exhibition with a dozen works from its collection, curated by Grégory Lang.
This selection brings together minimalist artworks by artists American (Dan Flavin, Kenneth Noland, Keith Sonnier, Frank Stella, Anne Truitt) and European (Josef Albers, Martin Barré, André Cadere, Ann Veronica Janssens, Imi Knœbel, Claude Rutault, Heimo Zobernig) artists. The contemporary relevance of this historical ensemble is underlined by a recent work by the artist Ann Veronica Janssens, which ties in with her solo exhibition running at the same time at the Fondation Saint-Paul de Vence.
Each of these works is part of a spatial composition of a musical nature. Thus, the exhibition unfolds as a set of geometries dividing canvases and lines of different colours, but with the same timbre. These complex tones, which are the result of subtle mixtures, resonate with each other and create a space that is conducive to perception.
In September 2022, the Fondation CAB in Brussels will present an exhibition under the same curatorship, On the lookout, which higlights the work of contemporary artists exploring color variations.
Opening on the 6th of April, from 6pm to 9pm
Open daily from 10am to 6pm
Ann Veronica Janssens (born 1956 in Folkestone, UK) is a Belgian artist whose work has been experimenting with simple or intangible materials, such as light, since the late 1970s through in-situ works . 16 Aquatic Bloks (110) is made of 16 blocks of cast glass paste, the colour of frozen water 16 blocks of glass paste cast in shades of stagnant water. The blocks are arranged in square-shape on the floor. Their surface is very smooth. The light creates a wide range of shades, transparency effects, and chromatic variations altered by the relief of the bloc. The properties of the material (shininess, lightness, transparency, and fluidity) have been carefully studied and chosen for their ability to disrupt the concept of materiality. A long rectangular bar made of transparent light blue colored glass has been cast and then polished to a high gloss on three sides. The fourth side is sandblasted matt, and it acts as a filter. Small nebulae of air bubbles can be seen in the material; these were formed while air tried to escape during the long cooling process of the material, as an expanding effort.
Imi Knoebel (b.1940, Dessau, Germany) is a German contemporary artist who studied alongside Joseph Beuys at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf where he shared a studio space with Blinky Palermo. He is a major figure of 20th century minimalist abstraction known for his flat abstract sculptures and paintings composed of juxtaposed panels. Knoebel’s work questions the relationship between space, color and the image’s medium. The style and formal concerns of his paintings and sculptures are directly related to the modernist principles as defined by Kazimir Malevitch and the Bauhaus.
Here, this monochromatic white painting composed of irregular polygons is the precise minimal result of a fusion of rectangular shapes. Knoebel used the most basic, often -unpainted- raw materials, looking to extend the notion of pure perception in abstract art. In his own words: “When I look at an artwork, I can do nothing but see its beauty, and I don’t want to see it in relationship with anything else. Only what I see, simply because it is valid in itself.”
André Cadere (b.1934, Warsaw, Poland – d.1978, Paris, France) is a Romanian conceptual artist emigrated in Paris in 1967, whose performative and dissenting approach made light of the art world codes in the wake of minimal, conceptual and Land art. In the 1970s, Cadere walked into exhibitions with a “clandestine” stick he sometimes inadvertently left in the gallery. Most often, it was a wooden stick mounted with multicolor cylindrical rings without front or back, like an endless painting thwarting the codes of traditional two-dimensional painting. The ordering of the rings followed a precise mathematical system of color permutation. By bringing and leaving his sticks in art places, Cadere also revealed the cultural conditions necessary to see a work of art. All at once a painting, a sculpture and a mobile, the work blurs the pre-established frontiers between those categories, questioning the identity of the author and the work, as well as the relevance of its signature and the “object”.
Kenneth Noland (b.1924, Asheville, USA – d.2010, Port Clyde, USA), painter and sculptor, studied with Josef Albers at the Black Mountain College, a school based in North Carolina that became the cradle of avant-gardes in decorative and contemporary art. Major representative of the Color Field movement founded in reaction to Action Painting in the 1940s-50s, in New York, Noland dismissed the individual artistic gesture cherished by abstract expressionists. His works mostly consist of fields of solid primary colors creating uninterrupted plans where “color is freed from objective context and becomes the subject matter itself.” Here, Noland’s superposition of saturated yellow stripes on warm beige painted without any sign of the artist’s hand directed the choice of the painting’s shape and size.
Frank Stella (b.1936, Malden, USA) is one of the most prominent representatives of the American avant-garde leading to minimalism, a movement he pioneered. Through his body of works and essays, Stella questions the pictorial surface and the “painting-object”. The Polish Village series is the fruit of such experiments. Following a cubist and constructivist logic, this abstract composition is an architectural synthesis of East Poland’s wooden synagogues from the 17th to 19th century, which were destroyed during WWII. His interpretation consists of volumes exceeding the esthetic boundaries of standard canvases, turning into complex spatial constructions of bright and muted colors that combine painting on wood, cardboard and dyed fabric. Stella’s practice of one-dimensional sculpture is what brought him toward monumental minimalist sculpture in 1972.
Keith Sonnier (b. 1941, Manou, USA- New York, USA) is a postminimalist sculptor, working on performance, video and light. He was part of the Process Art movement. Among other artists such as Bruce Nauman or Richard Serra, he contributed to the redefinition of the previous conception of sculpture
In the sixties, Sonnier was one of the first artist to use light in sculpture. From 1968, after working with incandescent light, he experimented with neon shapes and colours mixed with ephemeral materials. Their linear quality gave him the chance to use light and colour to transform the space, while the spread of light interacts on different levels of architecture. This wall installation of three pairs of neon, in red, yellow and green belongs to a series of works that, according to his own words: “were created as works having a visual and physical appearance. When you are in front or walk around them, they modify your perception and colour your appearance”.
Dan Flavin (b.1933, Jamaica, USA – d.1996, Riverhead, USA) worked with a simple and minimalist vocabulary of geometrical shapes using basic industrial materials. This installation of fluorescent lamps from a hardware store is characteristic of Flavin’s work. The lights, here pink and green emanating from these horizontally superposed neon lights radiate and restructure the space around them, thus altering our perception and emphasizing architectural structures. Such wide opening of the material limits of the object offered a new perspective within the evolving field of sculpture in the 1960s in the United States. Proposing a brand-new esthetic experience, this radical artistic gesture laid the foundation for minimalism.
Anne Truitt (b.1921, Baltimore, USA – d.2004, Washington, USA), psychology student and nurse, author of poems and short stories, American painter and sculptor, was a leading figure of minimalism. At the contact of Kenneth Noland, she developed a unique minimal visual grammar. She is also known for her large wood sculptures carefully layered with paint. She started experimenting with abstraction and formal esthetic in the 1960s. Her work is mainly concerned with questions of colors and monochromes, in relationship with the works of Ad Reinhardt and Barnett Newman. As the artist stated herself: “I try to enhance and free color … I try to bring color into three dimensions.” She works directly on wood or canvas and paints in an intensive process, where many thin, almost translucent layers of paint are applied one on top of the other, alternating horizontal and vertical brushstrokes that reveal a thin, brighter triangle at its center. His plain and simple colors gradually intensify under his gestures like a ritual.
Martin Barré (b.1924, Nantes, France – d.1993, Paris, France) is one of the most original French painters of European post-war abstraction. He moved to Paris in the 1950s after studying architecture and painting at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Nantes. This painting is part of a series for which Barré applied the same precise multi-step protocol with unfinishable results. Inspired by Malevitch, his interest in the space within the painting here shows through two visible grids: one oblique grid extending beyond the pictorial frame, and a second inside it. The barely perceptible squares that make up the works of this series are sometimes hatched, left blank, or filled with color like here, in a very subtle and minimal way. The visibility of these various minor steps evokes temporal stratification.