Pierre Soulages: A Century
Lévy Gorvy, New York
September 5 - October 26, 2019
Lévy Gorvy presented Pierre Soulages: A Century (2019) to celebrate the 100th birthday of the French master through a presentation of works spanning his career from the 1950s to 2019. This focused survey explored the artist’s enduring role in the dialogue between European and American painting and invited viewers to consider the impact of his practice, which has injected profound poetry into radical abstraction through its adherence to a single material: black paint.
Pierre Soulages: A Century preceded Homage to Soulages, the artist’s solo exhibition at the Musée du Louvre, Paris, which opened in December 2019. Curated by the late Pierre Encrevé, art historian and author of the Soulages catalogue raisonné, and Alfred Pacquement, curator and former Director of the Centre Pompidou, the Louvre exhibition marked one of the three times in the revered institution’s history that the Salon Carré has been entirely devoted to the presentation of work by a single living artist—an unparalleled honor.
Bringing together seminal paintings from the 1950s and 1960s that were either first exhibited in America or now reside in major American collections, the exhibition charted Soulages’s sustained investigation of abstraction—“a poetic experience,” he once wrote, that “signifies the world by transfiguring it”—from his early inspired encounters with the New York School to his continued innovations today. Also on view were exceptional examples from Soulages’s Outrenoir series initiated in 1979. Translating to “beyond black,” Outrenoir comprises works in which dense layers of pigment record subtle shifts in ambient light. Incorporating darkness and radiance, each canvas invites the viewer to ponder the dynamics of repetition and change that structure of Soulages’s oeuvre. “Outrenoir is not an optical phenomenon,” the artist has said. “It’s a mental state that you reach when you look deep into it, it’s beyond black.”