5 March - 8 March 2020
The Armory Show, Booth 204 - Pier 90, New York City
Pierre Soulages at 100
Painting and Prints from 7 Decades of Work.
Soulages’ natural etching style had been to scrape away the varnished surface to expose the copper plate, in gestures that moved back towards him, rather than to incise by way of a pushing motion. When a design had begun to take shape, the copper plate would be bathed in acid and the acid would bite where the copper had been exposed, deepening the gestures. Soulages would let prolonged acid exposure become part of the creative process, achieving random effects which the artist found pleasing and would work with and around. The deeper the cavities in the plate, the greater would be the eventual ink load on the paper. Roger Lacourière cautioned Soulages against going too far, “as long as there is copper Pierre, there is hope.” The inevitable happened though. The artist went too far and the acid ate through the copper plate in places. Lacourière shook his head, laughed and told Soulages that, as far as that particular plate was concerned, “it’s over.”
“I”, recalled Soulages, “a little out of spite and a little out of curiosity, I printed the plate with the hole I had made and then realised a great thing that I could not have foreseen. When the paper is pressed on a copper plate, under the press, which is a kind of rolling mill, the flesh of the paper is no longer the same, it has become smooth, burnished by the copper. Where the copper has been holed, the paper is spared, it keeps its paper life and I found it beautiful. The hole I made left white paper, but it was not the same white…because of the contrasts with the surrounding colours it seemed even whiter.”
Soulages’ early desire to let light into his printed compositions, accidental or otherwise, is of course directly related to the way in which his outrenoir paintings are conceived. “I realised that I was no longer working with black, but with the light reflected by the dark.” The term outrenoir, which literally means “beyond black”, is often misunderstood by those with only a passing knowledge of Soulages’ work. Outrenoir is not about the particular black the artist chooses to use, it is not about the visual effects that appear in reflection, or the gleaming, luminescent quality of the work. “Outrenoir”, explains Soulages, “is not an optical phenomenon. It’s a mental state that you reach when you look deep into it, it’s beyond black.” Soulages has chosen, since 1979, to paint almost exclusively in black.
ARCHEUS / POST-MODERN is pleased to present a tribute to Pierre Soulages, France’s greatest living artist, in his 100th year with an exhibition of 11 prints dating from 1952 to 1988 and 5 outrenoir paintings dating from 2004 to 2017.