Palm BeachPierre Soulages: Twenty Twenty-One
Lévy Gorvy presents a solo exhibition of paintings by Pierre Soulages. Pierre Soulages: Twenty Twenty-One is the French master’s first exhibition in Florida, and his first in the United States since being honored in December 2019 with an exhibition at the Musée du Louvre in Paris celebrating his centennial birthday. That exhibition represented only the third time in the Louvre’s history that the historic Salon Carré has been devoted entirely to the work of a single living artist, an honor Soulages now shares with Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall.
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Recognized as the foremost French artist working today, Soulages has been a key figure in contemporary art for seven decades. A peer of the celebrated American Abstract Expressionists with whom he exchanged ideas during stays in New York City in the 1950s, he has continued to mine the physical and expressive potentials of abstraction, pushing its boundaries. His striking Outrenoir paintings—the term was invented by Soulages and translates as “beyond black”—constitute an ongoing body of work that uses black paint to examine the physical and psychological impact of visual experience.
The works in Pierre Soulages: Twenty Twenty-One exemplify the continual experimentation and refinement of composition, method, and expression that Soulages continues to bring to his work as a painter who remains active at age 101. The presentation will debut recent paintings, including five Outrenoir paintings created over the past year. To make these works, Soulages repeatedly applies black pigment into irregular bands on his canvas. The resulting accumulation of paint lends these highly textured works the qualities of sculptural reliefs. The artist treats black as a material—a conductor of light and dark—rather than as a color to be used in the service of representation. Each painting in Pierre Soulages: Twenty Twenty-One differs radically in its reflection and absorption of ambient light, creating a dramatic interplay across its surface. Incorporating both darkness and radiance, the Outrenoir paintings channel ambient light across their surfaces, creating subtle and dramatic perceptual transformations.
Soulages never repeats a canvas; rather, he attempts with each work to inspire a unique visual and emotional response. For him, what lies beyond black is light: “When light is reflected on black, it transforms and transmutes it,” the artist once said. “It opens up a mental field all of its own.” Endlessly questioning the possibilities of intuition and perception, these paintings find the master carrying forth in his sustained exploration of the existential beyond.
Courtesy of Lévy Gorvy. Photo: Diego Texera