Tue 12 Sep 2023 to Sat 25 Nov 2023
Artist: Daniel Buren
Mennour presents ‘Plis contre plan, hauts-reliefs, travaux situés’ [‘Plis contre plan, high reliefs, situated works]. This is Daniel Buren’s first solo exhibition in Paris since his ‘simultaneous’ project with Philippe Parreno in 2021 (1) and in 2017, when he devised ‘Pyramidal. Hauts-reliefs, travaux in situ et situés’ [‘Pyramidal. High reliefs, situated and in situ works’]. (2)
For this new project, Plis contre plan, the artist has ‘borrowed’ two of the gallery’s four spaces to display a set of works never previously exhibited in France. They comprise around twenty pieces created between 2021 and 2023. By ‘borrowing’ these spaces, as he puts it, he will transform them and ‘present them in a different light’. Daniel Buren (b. 1938) made a name for himself on the art scene in the 1960s. In 1965, he settled into an approach based on a striped canvas with alternating white and coloured, 8.7 cm-wide stripes. The introduction in late 1967 of what he called a ‘visual tool’ laid the foundations for a practice that broke with tradition and opened up a multifaceted body of work in which freedom was born, as the artist likes to point out, out of both internal and external constraints. Daniel Buren explored this ‘visual tool’ by developing it on a flat surface and, from the end of the 1960s, in three dimensions.
The Plis contre plan are a variation within the series of works in relief. These ‘variations’, like Monet’s series, are works that share common principles, and are avenues opened up, explored and then closed off by the artist. Here, a succession of prisms, cascading one after the other or alternating with the support, are set against a plane consisting of a 217.5-cm square mirror divided into a notional grid of 25 equal squares. Each piece is unique, with its own arrangement of relief and colour. Daniel Buren has painted each piece in bright, bold, cheerful colours which, alert to the ‘surprise factor’, he chose at random from a range provided by the manufacturer.
For this new ‘variation’, Daniel Buren has invented a rule in which the stripes are now arranged frontally rather than side-on, while the flat areas of colour are confined to the sides of the prisms. In this way, he blurs the boundaries between plane and relief, between painting, sculpture and architecture, between the object and its reflection, between immobility and movement. The stripes run up and down vertically in front of us, as if they were flat, but they burst into life, fragmenting and folding into an alternation of voids and solids. It is as if these ‘folds’, which, Gilles Deleuze suggested, characterise Baroque thinking and aesthetics, formed the torso columns so prevalent in Baroque architecture. (3) In the mirror, another favourite of Baroque interiors, the prisms complement and extend each other, and the triangles become perfect rhombuses, as if suspended in time, creating a blur between fiction and reality.
The Plis contre plan works usher in an entirely new visual and sensory experience that radically alters our relationship with space. This is a fundamental aspect of Daniel Buren’s research: making the work part of a place and negating the supposed autonomy of a painting or sculpture. In so doing, Daniel Buren emphasises the political dimension of art; each work has an effect on the real world by interacting with it. The artwork is always, as he puts it, ‘situated’ or, when it exists only for and because of a place, in situ. Daniel Buren’s art is no more concerned with abstraction than it is with theoretical geometric research: art is linked to life, or rather, it exists in life and in reality, which both have the effect of modifying it. In the Plis contre plan, the mirror emphasises this interdependence and exchange. The dimensions of each piece are such that they envelop the viewer. The mirror incorporates the viewer into the work itself, and as it reflects the location, the work is in a constant state of flux. It is as if it were in motion − never the same. This consubstantial interplay of metamorphosis, mobility and infinite, fleeting, unpredictable variability is a reflection of life itself.
— Sylvie Patry
(1) ‘Daniel Buren — Philippe Parreno, Simultanément, travaux in situ et en mouvement’, 5 December 2020 - 30 April 2021, Mennour, (opening of the new venue at 5 rue du Pont de Lodi), Paris.
(2) October 11 - November 25, 2017, Mennour, Paris.
(3) Gilles Deleuze, Le Pli. Leibniz et le Baroque, Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit, 1988 ; Gilles Deleuze, tr. Tom Conley, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, (London, The Athlone Press, 1993).