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Exhibition at Gagosian juxtaposes key works by American artist Steven Parrino with European counterparts
Steven Parrino, The Self Mutilation Bootleg 2 (The Open Grave), 2003. Enamel on canvas. 115 x 64 x 20 in.© Steven Parrino. Courtesy the Steven Parrino Estate and Gagosian Gallery.

PARIS.- Gagosian Gallery presents an exhibition that for the first time juxtaposes key works by American artist Steven Parrino with European counterparts spanning two generations: John Armleder, Martin Barré, Daniel Buren, Simon Hantaï, Olivier Mosset, Michel Parmentier, and Niele Toroni.

Bringing an extreme punk sensibility to bear on the history of abstraction, from the late seventies Parrino began to literally attack the canvas, piercing and tearing its surface, or twisting it off the stretcher to disrupt the conventional rectangular plane. These “misshaped” canvases painted in viscous enamel or lacquer, such as Spin-Out Vortex (Black Hole) (2000) and Skeletal Implosion (Thick Stripes) (2001), were in part muscular, performative responses to the refined aesthetics of abstract precedents. 13 Shattered Panels (for Joey Ramone) (2001) is a wall-size installation of plasterboard painted shiny black, a spontaneous and emotive abstract composition born out of destructive action and Parrino’s shrine to the punk legend whose rock band, The Ramones, forever changed the American music scene of the late seventies with driving reductive guitar rhythms and a minimalist visual style of black leather and torn jeans.

A keen awareness of the history, semiotics, and spatial possibilities of painting, together with his allegiance to radical popular culture led Parrino to produce bold and unprecedented iterations of symbolic rupture. This daring leap imbued his paintings with a tremendous sense of objecthood and latent physicality, as well as powerful intimations of time, existence, and sublimated content.

Clear visual links can be made between the work of Parrino and two generations of European artists, beginning with BMPT. BMPT was founded by Buren, Mosset, Parmentier, and Toroni to challenge established methods of art-making and theorize a new social and political function for art and artists. In 1966–67, they presented five performative exhibitions, or ‘manifestations,’ that questioned authorial prerogative and the institutionalizing role of the Paris Salons. More broadly, BMPT reflected critically on the spectacular, self-conscious nature of the new avant-garde in France. They tested established ideas of artistic authorship and originality by implying that they often made each other’s works, while emphasizing the objecthood, rather than the originality, of their paintings. Seeking to create art that was simple and self-evident, they suppressed subjectivity and expressiveness in favor of practical systems, such as the utilization of neutral, repetitive patterns and an apparent eschewal of aesthetic historical grounding, as in Buren's painting with its woven black and white stripes and undulating stretcher Peinture aux formes variables (1966), Parmentier's bold composition 30 Janvier 1968 with bright red bands of varying width, and Niele Toroni's metric square brush strokes in oil on canvas. This stance reached its apotheosis in the “zero degree paintings” of Mosset, with whom Parrino shared a close friendship and artistic affinities that resulted in occasional collaborations. One of more than 200 identical oil paintings of a small black circle at the center of white canvas one meter square produced between 1966 and 1974, Untitled (1970) aptly demonstrates Mosset’s quest for formal purity that ended in total ambivalence.

Though attuned to the achievements of BMPT, Armleder, Barré, and Hantaï adopted looser, less orthodox attitudes. Armleder’s art, which encompasses everything from abstract drawings to “sculptural furniture,” performances, and photographic prints, is represented by CRE (Furniture sculpture) (1986/2006) a row of four identical utilitarian Eames chairs juxtaposed with a sober striped painting. From the seventies onwards, Barré explored the possibilities of systematic abstraction, changing course whenever a chosen system became too stable or predictable. In the spray paintings, he exchanged traditional brushwork for linear mark-making and chromatic contrast, creating the illusion that the final compositions were cut from larger ones. In 65-A (1965), a black line, spurting across the corner of a taupe ground, seems to transcend the limits of both canvas and frame. The spray paintings thus predicated Barré’s subsequent work, where pictorial relationships operating within and between painting series became paramount. Hantaï is best known for his pliage technique, developed in the late fifties, which gave a paradoxically lyric quality to his compositions. Etude (de la série pour Pierre Reverdy) (1969), a huge crumpled canvas in rich hyacinth blue, has a dynamic, variegated design emerging out of the process of folding and unfolding the painted material. Parrino would employ a similar technique, although with very different results.

Steven Parrino was born in New York in 1958, where he died in 2005. Exhibitions include “The Painted World,” P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City (2005); 2006 Whitney Biennial; “Steven Parrino,” Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain, Geneva (2006); and “Steven Parrino,” Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2007).

John Armleder was born in Geneva in 1948. He lives and works in Geneva and New York. Exhibitions include “About Nothing: Works on Paper 1964–2004,” Kunsthalle Zürich (2004); “Too Much is Not Enough,” Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Boston (2007); Mamco, Geneva (2007); “Pictures about Pictures: Discourses in Painting,” Mumok, Vienna (2010); “The Indiscipline of Painting,” Tate St. Ives (2011); and “Selected Furniture Sculptures 1979–2012,” Swiss Institute, New York (2012).

Martin Barré was born in Nantes in 1924 and died in Paris in 1993. Exhibitions include "Retrospective Martin Barré (1954–1987),” Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tourcoing, Galerie des Ponchettes and Galerie d'Art Contemporain, Nice, France (1989), “Manifeste. Une histoire parallèle,” Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1993), “Martin Barré, les années quatre-vingt Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris” (1993); “La Force de l’Art,” Grand Palais, Paris (2006); “Dans l’œil du critique, Bernard Lamarche-Vadel et les artistes,” Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris (2009)

Daniel Buren was born in Paris in 1938 where he lives and works. Exhibitions include “The Eye of the Storm: Works in situ by Daniel Buren,” Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2005); “Daniel Buren La Coupure, Work in situ,” Musée National Picasso, Paris (2008); Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Netherlands (2010); MUMOK, Vienna (2010); “Daniel Buren: Borrowing and Multiplying the Landscape, Work in situ,” Turner Contemporary, Margate, Kent (2011); “Echos, Works in situ,” Centre Pompidou-Metz (2011); and “Monumenta 2012” at the Grand Palais, Paris.

Simon Hantaï was born in Bia, Hungary in 1922 and died in Paris in 2008. Exhibitions include “Retrospective,” Musée National d’Art Moderne-Centre Pompidou (1976); “Simon Hantaï 1960–76,” CAPC Musée d'Art Contemporain de Bordeaux (1981); Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Münster (1999); “Simon Hantaï—Michel Parmentier,” Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2001); “As Painting: Division and Displacement,” Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio (2001); and “Les Sujets de l’Abstraction—Peinture Non-Figurative de la Seconde Ecole de Paris,” Musée Rath, Geneva (2011). A retrospective of his work will open at Centre Pompidou later this year.

Olivier Mosset was born in 1944 in Bern, Switzerland. He lives and works in Tucson, Arizona. Exhibitions include “Portrait de l’Artiste en Motocycliste,” Le Magasin, Centre National d’Art Contemporain, Grenoble (2009); “The Artist as Collector,” Museum of Contemporary Art, Tucson (2010); “Seconde Main,” Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris (2010); “Born in Bern,” Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland (2011); and “The Indiscipline of Painting,” Tate St. Ives (2012).

Michel Parmentier (1938–2000) was born in Paris, where he died in 2000. Exhibitions include “Simon Hantaï—Michel Parmentier,” Musée National d’Art Moderne, Georges Pompidou, Paris (2001); “Reinventing Color: 1950 to Today,” Museum of Modern Art, New York (2008); and “Color Chart,” Tate Liverpool (2009).

Niele Toroni was born in 1937 in Muralto, Switzerland. He lives and works in Paris. Exhibitions include the 1976 Venice Biennale; the 1991 São Paulo Biennal; Documenta 7 (1982) and 9 (1992); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1994); “Niele Toroni: Histoires de Peinture,” Musée d`art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2001); “Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today,” Museum of Modern Art, New York; and “Less is More: Pictures, Objects, Concepts from the Collection and Archive of Herman & Nicole Daled, 1966–1978,” Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany (2010).

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