Pierre Soulages: Twenty Twenty-One
Pierre Soulages: Twenty Twenty-One (2021) was the French master’s first exhibition in Florida and the first in the United States since his centennial birthday exhibition at the Musée du Louvre, Paris, in 2019. The artist was a prominent figure in contemporary art for over seven decades. A peer of the celebrated American Abstract Expressionists with whom he exchanged ideas during stays in New York City in the 1950s, Soulages pushed the boundaries of abstraction—mining its physical and expressive potential.
The works in Pierre Soulages: Twenty Twenty-One exemplified the continual experimentation and refinement of composition, method, and expression that Soulages brought as a painter who remained active until his death at age 102. The presentation debuted five Outrenoir ("beyond black"). The artist used black paint to examine the physical and psychological impact of visual experience. Soulages repeatedly applied black pigment into irregular bands on his canvas, resulting in an accumulation of paint leading to highly textured works with the qualities of sculptural relief.
The artist treats black as a material—a conductor of light and dark—rather than as a color in the service of representation. Each painting in Pierre Soulages: Twenty Twenty-One differed radically in its reflection and absorption of ambient light. The Outrenoir paintings incorporated darkness and radiance, channeled ambient light across their surfaces, creating subtle and dramatic perceptual transformations. Soulages never repeated a canvas; rather, he attempted with each work to inspire a unique visual and emotional response. “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 found the master carrying forth in his sustained exploration of the existential beyond.