Noir / Lumière
04.11.2018 until 06.01.2019
Far beyond the borders of France, the artistic work of Pierre Soulages is regarded as unique in the rigorous radicalism with which he has devoted himself, almost exclusively, to the colour black. Born in 1919, he has been producing work of an international reputation for more than seven decades. Already in the early 1940s, Soulages was painting and etching in an abstract gestural manner, maintaining a great passion for a palette almost exclusively focused on black. At the beginning of his artistic career, he was impressed by the work of Sonia Delaunay, who for her part continued the confrontation in France with Wassily Kandinsky’s theory ‘On the Spiritual in Art’ (1911). In the 1940s Soulages already began to devote himself to printmaking as well as painting. In this field, he was already trying different acids and other materials to achieve the slightest nuances in black or brown tones. Since then, he has used his incomparable black, which has become part of his very essence, for the sensitive balancing of light, enhancing it to the status of a powerful gesture. Unlike other etchers of his generation, Soulages took further radical steps as early as the 1950s. As he did in his paintings, he developed a tension pattern in his etchings which, alongside the form, leaves a free white surface which is used only to increase the luminosity of the colours and thus of the light. The search for light has accompanied him throughout his life, which has meant that since the late 1970s Soulages has only dealt with the colour black, along with numerous facets and manipulations in the application of paint.
The focus of the exhibition project will be the two Soulages works that have been part of the collection since the opening of the Ludwig Museum. These are the painting ‘Peinture’ of 14 April 1953 and the glass work ‘Untitled’ dating from 1958. Both pieces show the work of Soulages just as he was about to turn even more radically towards pure black. The exhibition explores the question of artistic relationships and developments, showing them in relation to the work of artists from France, America, Germany and Asia. Special attention will be paid to the question of the sources of inspiration: Abstract Expressionism as practised in America, and the Zen painting of Asia, a direct confrontation with which was already made possible by the first Chinese and Japanese painting to arrive in Paris.
The exhibition is being staged in collaboration with the artist and the Musée Soulages in Rodez. It has received significant financial support from the Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation.