Sam Gilliam, Carousel Form II, 1969 © Sam Gilliam / ADAGP, Paris 2022
Steven Parrino, Blob (Fuckheadbubblegum), 1996 © The Steven Parrino Estate © André Morin for the Consortium
Niele Toroni, Empreintes de pinceau n°50 répétées à intervalles réguliers de 30 cm, 1997 © Adagp, Paris, 2022 Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery
La Couleur en fugue, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris.
While the art market seems to have eyes only for figurative painting, this spring, in Paris and Venice, the Fondation Louis Vuitton is celebrating abstract painters whose work departs from the limited scope of the canvas and splashes colour everywhere, from wall to ceiling. “Figurative painting is riding high right now,” affirms Suzanne Pagé, the foundation’s artistic director, “but abstract painting is still here, with very strong personalities from all generations, like those we’re showing in Paris: Sam Gilliam, Steven Parrino, Niele Toroni, Katharina Grosse and Megan Rooney. Their abstract art is not abstracted from the world, but is very aware of it. These artists eschew representation to better embrace the world. The real question is, “What does painting do to the world and what does the world do to painting?”
Megan Rooney, a 37-year-old Canadian based in the UK, has created a huge fresco in an open-air gallery at the Fondation Louis Vuitton. Alert to the world around her, Rooney painted what she saw: the arrival of spring, with its light and colour. Or rather, what the arrival of spring left in the way of aesthetic and emotional traces on her memory. Yet her painting cannot be reduced to this simple dimension. In London, she has set up her studio in a devastated former hospital, a very aggressive place. Rooney, who adores gardens, is exposed to world’s harshness on a daily basis. When she was up in the scissor lift painting on the vast surfaces of the Fondation Louis Vuitton, she didn’t use only soft brushes to cover them with her pastel colours, but also coarse brushes and the violence of spray paint. She even used a sander to blast off the skin of the wall. The ultimate softness combined with the utmost aggressiveness...
For decades, Swiss artist Niele Toroni (85), who now lives in Paris, has been revealing the world – especially space – through a precise method: repeated monochrome col- our marks made with a flat 50 mm brush, spaced at regular 30 cm intervals, on whatever surface he is working with: wall, staircase, window or canvas. All of a sudden, the surface of intervention is transformed. “When I was director of Paris’s Musée d’Art Moderne,” recalls Pagé, “we had this disgusting storeroom. Niele Toroni, who never goes for the obvious, set his sights on it and turned it into a painting cabinet. His intervention transformed it into a luminous palace. Toroni makes the world not only luminous but also intelligent and tangible. His world is that of painting, but his choice of colours is not disconnected from the world. They carry a symbolic dimension. The use of red, for example, is not left to chance.”
But it is undoubtedly German artist Katharina Grosse’s triple intervention that reserves the most pleasant suprise. A past master at monumental in-situ installations, she has been given two of the Vuitton galleries in Paris as well as its beautiful Venetian space, which has just joined the Art Biennale’s official programme. Armed with her paint guns, Grosse is known for covering everything – floors, walls, canvas, bedrooms – in vivid iridescent col- our: yellow, blue, red, green, orange, purple... In Venice, her impressive installation comprise a giant piece of met- al-mesh fabric on which she has printed a photo of her own hands. Made from millions of tiny brass links, the piece blurs the boundaries between the artist’s body and the material, covering the walls and floor. “The image represents a moment when my body and the materials intertwine in the act of painting,” Grosse explains. Visitors’ movements are reflected in it, creating a liquid, fluid mirror that evokes the water that is everywhere in La Serenissima. “I let the printed brass mesh drape the walls and much of the floor of the exhibition space, like water, so that it wavers between surface, texture, image and object; be- tween order and chaos; destruction and creation; tension and release; forced and free movement. The shimmering image will constantly evolve, depending on the angle of the light and how the reflections on the metal echo view- ers’ movements, in reference to Leibniz’s concept of folds of time, space and movement.”
In Paris, Grosse has installed a gigantic suspended sculpture-object in the foundation’s “canyon”, a vertiginous vertical space in Frank Gehry’s building. The work com- prises eight spray-painted “petals” (as Grosse calls them), each 8 to 15 metres high. Finally, in the gigantic Galerie 10, she has installed a monument of overlapping triangular forms that once again choreographs colour with flamboyant élan. As for the late Steven Parrino, who was also a musician, performer and video artist, he would first paint his material before twisting and tearing it to give it new form. At the Fondation Louis Vuitton, this choreographic construction-destruction of form propels colour into space with the energy of a teenager on the run. “The whole exhibition is built around colour,” concludes Pagé. “All the artists in the show have a perfomance side to their practice. Colour is on the run, free, ready to embrace liberty. Everything seems to say: “The world is open and it belongs to you. All you need do is go for it.”
“La Couleur en fugue”, from May 4 to August 29, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris.
Katharina Grosse, “Apollo, Apollo”, until November 27, Espace Louis Vuitton, Venice.