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LÚvy Gorvy announces United States representation of François Morellet
Franšois Morellet, 2 trames de tirets 0░ 30░ (13 cm de haut chacun), 1971, Silkscreened paint on canvas, 55 1/8 x 55 1/8 inches (140 x 140 cm). ę 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

NEW YORK, NY.- Dominique LÚvy and Brett Gorvy, co-founders of LÚvy Gorvy, announced that the gallery will exclusively represent the estate of French artist Franšois Morellet (1926–2016) in the United States. Morellet, who spent his life and career in Cholet, France, was among the earliest postwar artists to embrace geometric abstraction. Never formally trained, he relied on a reduced vocabulary of lines, grids, and simple shapes such as circles, triangles, and squares. Insisting that “art is frivolous even when it takes itself seriously,” his work infused rigorous abstraction with a sense of playful irreverence and unpretentious humor. Balancing structure and spontaneity, he adopted mathematical systems and chance procedures to diminish his subjectivity from his art. Working with a wide variety of materials, many of which he was among the first to employ, such as steel, neon tubes, iron, tape, wire mesh, and wood, he strove to produce an art that was accessible to all, unencumbered by messages and meanings beyond its immediate existence.

“We are honored to work with the Morellet family, who have entrusted us with the legacy of Franšois Morellet, a true pioneer,” said Dominique LÚvy. “Morellet took risks throughout his career. Bold and experimental, he was ahead of the curve in so many ways, exploring different materials in his painting, sculpture, and light-based work.”

On behalf of the estate of Franšois Morellet, the artist’s son Friquet Morellet commented: “Our decision to collaborate with LÚvy Gorvy is exciting to us. Representation of this caliber will strengthen my father’s legacy in the United States and beyond. We were particularly inspired by the passion and energy with which Dominique and Brett represent artists, and we look forward to upcoming projects with the gallery, which will offer global exposure.”

Morellet’s mature production dates to the early 1950s. It was then that, inspired by such diverse sources as the decoration of the Alhambra, the concrete art of Max Bill, and the musical compositions of John Cage, he introduced systems and simple mathematics into his work, using the digits of pi (π) and the numbers from the telephone book as random sources to generate patterns. Crucially, the visible trace of the artist’s hand is absent in Morellet’s art; his goal was to be anonymous, an approach that contrasted sharply with the period’s dominant styles of Art Informel and Abstract Expressionism. One way that he achieved impersonality was by applying adhesive tape to his canvases, blotting a large brush over the paint as he applied it to create perfectly straight edges that lack any evidence of his human touch. Challenging notions of the artist as an isolated genius, the results achieve complexity through their embrace of simplicity, economy, and repetition.

As Alfred Pacquement, friend of the artist and former Director of the Centre Pompidou, summed: “Morellet overcame the paradox of marrying the renowned austerity and rigor of geometric abstraction with the freedom and impertinence of artists who, since Dada, and before them, the joyful group of The Incoherents, were able to challenge established norms.”

Concurrent with Dan Flavin (1933–1996), who began using fluorescent tubes in his art in the early 1960s, Morellet also experimented with tubular lighting fixtures. Attracted to the material’s industrial qualities and luminosity, he created his first neon works in 1963. Like Flavin’s, Morellet’s oeuvre is often considered alongside the Minimal and Conceptual movements, pioneered by luminaries such as Sol LeWitt (1928–2007), Donald Judd (1928–1994), and fellow LÚvy Gorvy-represented artist Frank Stella (b. 1936), that defined American art in the 1960s and 70s.

LÚvy Gorvy’s announcement coincides with the first major exhibition of the artist’s work in the United States in over thirty years, which opened at the Dia Art Foundation on October 28. On view at both Dia:Chelsea (New York City) and Dia:Beacon (Beacon, NY), the exhibition presents a survey of Morellet’s career. Nearly fifty works are featured from the full sixty-year arc of his career including key abstract geometric paintings, innovative neon works, and two site-specific installations. This presentation extends beyond the traditional gallery walls with outdoor installations, such as the wall painting Trames 3░, 87░, 93░, 183░ (1971/2017), which covers the entire western-facing fašade of Dia’s Chelsea location.

As inventive as he was determined, Morellet left behind an extensive archive of artworks and ideas that beckon further study, all of which have been carefully preserved by the artist’s estate. LÚvy Gorvy plans to investigate the artist’s singular mode of production in a forthcoming solo exhibition at the gallery’s flagship New York location in 2019. Art Basel Miami, which opens next week, will be the first opportunity for LÚvy Gorvy to present work by Franšcois Morellet alongside that of artists anchored in the gallery's program. The gallery’s presentation, which will be located at Booth E6, will include 2 trames de tirets 0░ 30░ (13 cm de haut chacun) (1971).

Franšois Morellet was born in Cholet, France, in 1926. He began painting at age 14 and studied Russian literature in Paris. Upon completing his studies, he returned to Cholet in 1948, continuing to paint while running a family-owned toy factory until 1976. This position allowed him to finance his early artistic career while bringing him into dialogue with fabricators and exposing him to material production techniques, which greatly invigorated his artistic practice. In 1950, he visited Brazil, where he first encountered the Concrete Art movement and the innovations of its progenitor, Max Bill.

Following his return to France in 1951, Morellet’s stylistic approach to painting shifted, becoming more geometric and analytical. In 1952, he visited the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, which was a revelatory experience. It was during this year that he embraced systems and geometric abstraction. He also became friends with JoŰl Stein and was introduced to the work of Marcel Duchamp and Piet Mondrian. In 1961, he founded the Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel (GRAV) with Stein and fellow artists Julio Le Parc, Jean-Pierre Yvaral, Francisco Sobrino, and Horacio Garcia Rossi. The group pursued what Morellet termed “programmed experimental painting”: a mode of art-making which sought to actively engage the viewer through immersive, multi-sensory installations. In 1963, Morellet began working with a neon fabricator to generate arrangements of light combined with handmade mechanical timing systems which established a specific lighting rhythm for each panel.

After GRAV disbanded in 1968, Morellet’s interests in site-specificity gained momentum, and his grids expanded onto architectural structures. He also began to create dense compositions of segmented lines rendered in neon tubes, seemingly suspended in the air. The artist denied the significance of “information-bearing painting” with wit and humor, an approach that he shared with artists such as Bruce Nauman.

Morellet’s work has been included in important international group exhibitions including The Responsive Eye at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1965), Documenta in Kassel, Germany (1964 [with GRAV], 1968, and 1977), and the Venice Biennale (1970, 1990, and 2011). In 1971, his first solo museum exhibition originated at the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, and traveled throughout Europe. His work was the subject of an American retrospective in 1985, which traveled to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, the Musée d’art contemporain in Montreal, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Center for the Fine Arts in Miami. Other major retrospectives of Morellet’s work have been held at the Centre Pompidou (1986 and 2011) and the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume (2000–01) in Paris. His work is housed in major public collections around the globe, including the Los Angeles Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Seoul Museum of Art, Tate Britain, the Tel Aviv Museum, and the Kunsthaus Zurich. He is one of three contemporary artists to have a permanent installation at the Louvre in Paris, installed in 2010 in the Lefuel staircase.

In 2016, the artist died in his Cholet home at the age of 90.

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