Mnuchin Gallery is proud to announce an exhibition of paintings by Simon Hantaï (1922 – 2008). Simon Hantaï | Pliage: The First Decade will present a focused look at the 1960s, his first mature decade. It was during this period that the Hungarian-born, Paris-based artist created his groundbreaking pliage, or “folding” method. Tracing pliage’s development through Hantaï’s five early series— the Mariales, Catamurons, Panses, Meuns, and Études— the exhibition will be the first of its kind in the United States. Co-curated by Alfred Pacquement, former director of the Centre Pompidou, it will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue with essays by Mr. Pacquement and Robert Storr, art historian and Dean of the Yale School of Art, as well as an introduction by the artist’s widow, Zsuzsa Hantaï. The exhibition has been organized in close cooperation with the artist’s family and with the support of Galerie Jean Fournier and Paul Kasmin Gallery.
In Paris in 1960, at a time when the avant-garde was mourning the death of painting, Hantaï chose not to abandon or destroy the medium but rather to reinvent it. Triggered by Jackson Pollock, Hantaï began by laying his unstretched canvas on the floor. He went on to fold and knot the material before painting its crumpled surface, causing the folded areas to remain unpainted. When unfolded and stretched, the canvas revealed fragmented planes of pure pigment glinting and winking among scattered fields of negative space.
Working systematically over the next ten years, Hantaï experimented with the placement of his folds, the depth of his creases, the consistency of his paints, and the range of his palette to develop distinct series with dramatically different textures, moods, and formal structures. Hantaï paired these studious calculations with a significant element of chance that, along with his all-over compositions and floor-based approach, united his practice with that of Pollock. However, whereas Pollock celebrated the idea of direct physical expression, Hantaï embraced the cerebral side of gesture, creating with his folds a signature mode that bridged the legacy of European Cubism with American Abstract Expressionism.
With the development of his pliage method firmly solidifying Hantaï’s position as a celebrated leader in European abstraction, he went on to exhibit widely across Europe while American museums, such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, acquired his work. In 1982, he represented his adopted home of France in the Venice Biennale. However, Hantaï’s disillusionment with the commercial aspects of the art world led to his famous withdrawal from the public eye in the 1980s and 1990s. It was not until the Centre Pompidou’s critically-acclaimed 2013 retrospective, also organized by Alfred Pacquement, that the world was reacquainted with the full scope of his achievements.
Simon Hantaï | Pliage: The First Decade will be on view April 28 - June 26, 2015.