For the first time in the USA, Hungarian-born, Paris-based artist, Simon Hantaï presents work from the 1960s, a period in which his work matured and he began to develop pliage, or “folding” method. The exhibition explores Hantaï’s five initial series – Mariales, Catamurons, Panses, Meuns, and Études – to look at the way in which the artist reinvented the medium of painting in 1960s Paris, where many avant-garde artists were mourning the loss of painting.
Inspired by the work of Jackson Pollock, Hantaï would lay unstretched canvas on the floor, fold and knot it before painting onto the crumpled surface. When unfolded, unpainted areas contrast with heavily coated sections in scattered planes. These canvases became more ordered over the next ten years as Hantaï experimented with folding, creases, colours and consistencies of paint to alter the texture and mood of each work. Hantaï’s work remained similar to Pollock in its floor-based approach, however opposing in his systematic development and overall acceptance of various elements of chance.
Pliage saw Hantaï celebrated as a leader of European abstraction, representing France in the Venice Biennale in 1982, however as he rejected much of the commercialism of the art world, he withdrew from the public public eye in the 1980s and 1990s. Therefore this exhibition has been curated with the heavy involvement of his family, who still hold much of his artwork.
Simon Hantaï, Pliage: The First Decade, until 26 June, Mnuchin Gallery, 45 E 78th St, New York, NY 10075. For more information visit www.mnuchingallery.com
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1. Simon Hantaï, Étude, (1969)