Fugues in Colour at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris


I arrived to Paris on a pilgrimage, seriously, to see the new mural by Megan Rooney at the Fondation Louis Vuitton. She is just one of the most formidable abstract painters functioning today. And while I was making my way there—as the Eurostar thundered via the tunnel, and as I ambled by the park that properties Frank Gehry’s billowing glass building—I was pondering about what abstraction implies currently. Precisely, I was thinking of Joan Mitchell’s pastel from 1975, in which a mass of glowing ochre sits above flecks of purply-blue, with James Schuyler’s poem, Daylight, typed below:

And when I believed,

“Our enjoy could end”

the sunlight

went appropriate on shining

How could 14 terms throughout 4 lines say so tiny and so substantially?

The pressure between restraint and expression is crucial to significantly of the most effective summary portray. And in spite of the quite a few prophesies that our romance with it would conclude, especially after the golden age of 1950s Summary Expressionism was eclipsed by Pop and efficiency, video clip and conceptualism (“Arrivederci, Modernismo”, wrote the critic Carter Ratcliff in 1974), it has in some way held on glowing. Museums, industrial galleries and non-public institutions this sort of as Fondation Louis Vuitton (FLV)—where there will be a retrospective of Joan Mitchell this autumn (touring from the San Francisco Museum of Modern-day Art and the Baltimore Museum of Art)—have performed considerably to retain that lamp burning, but they have also been responding to a current wave of popular and critical fascination in transnational modes of abstraction in the publish-war period of time.

It is also about the power of color as metaphor and hex

Rooney’s installation has been commissioned for the opening area of FLV’s summer months exhibition, Fugues in Color, which delivers alongside one another five global artists of distinct generations, just about every broadly engaged with the legacies of these actions the others are Sam Gilliam, Katharina Grosse, Steven Parrino and Niele Toroni. The principle is an expansive a single: the catalogue describes the exhibition as a “launching pad” in which “colour breaks absolutely free of all boundaries and reasserts its most important role”. Artists have extended been intoxicated with colour, which is, after all, how we gentle-delicate creatures orientate ourselves in the planet. But it is also about the electricity of colour as metaphor and hex: as Roland Barthes put it, “colour is like a closing eyelid, a little fainting spell”. Which would make me speculate about David Batchelor and Angela de la Cruz and Ann Veronica Janssens and Yves Klein and Melanie Smith and James Turrell and all the other colour-drunk artists who may possibly similarly have discovered a dwelling in this article.

Perhaps it’s superior to think of Fugues in Color in the musical sense that the title encourages—not as an interrogation of the background of this concept so much as a melodic chorus released by a person voice and then created by subsequent elements. The next area opens with Gilliam’s a few remarkable drape paintings, suspended from the ceiling in arcs that intensify the liquidity of their patterning. Gilliam described 1968, the yr that he started his drape paintings, as “one of revelation” Martin Luther King had just been assassinated and there were 4 times of riots in Washington, DC, exactly where he experienced not too long ago moved. His uncooked canvases, stained with swimming pools of paint and then folded and knotted into sophisticated sensual surfaces, appear to carry all that a system may well delight in and endure. Whilst he produced no express reference to the civil rights motion, Gilliam was clear that “the expressive act of earning a mark and hanging it in place is generally political”.

There is some thing in the tender sag of canvas, for illustration, that evokes the banners carried by the streets in centuries of social justice protests, to this day. The wall textual content features superb depth about his approach for the drape paintings—the diluting of acrylic paint and dabbing of aluminium powder—but I stress that the emphasis on “the lyrical, lively energy of color [to redefine] Frank Gehry’s architecture” considerably dampens his political spirit. This formalist strategy is accentuated by Gilliam getting paired with Steven Parrino, whose misshapen canvases are described as “taking color out of the body and permitting it move into space”. This is a little baffling considering the fact that the bulk of his crushed-up tondos and canvases scrumpled up on the ground are both industrial silver or monochromatic. (I invite you to Google “Is black a colour?” to be lured down a rabbit hole.)

Katharina Grosse’s Splinter (2022)

© Adagp, Paris, 2022 © Fondation Louis Vuitton/Marc Domage

Parrino was not a dedicated political figure (also fast paced staying a New York rebel-with no-a-bring about) but he did need his “mutant form of deformalised painting…to speak about life”, and there’s small sense listed here of what that may have intended, or who the intended sufferer was for the violence in his perform. Toroni, who nevertheless lives and will work in Paris, should have been glad to have his own little gallery, given the tranquil, obsessive minimalism of his paintings, for which he works by using a 5cm brush to daub paint at regular 30cm intervals. We are told mysteriously that the “tondi with the ‘reds’ of Bordeaux stem from the imprints the artist created on wine barrels”. Yet again, I surprise why and to what end.

The term “fugue” stems from the Latin fuga for flight, and thoughts of refuge and the fugitive are powerfully felt in the two new commissions, which will exist only for this summer, before currently being submerged less than contemporary white paint. Grosse, whose perform Splinter adorns the premier, closing area in the best-floor galleries—as properly as the opening web pages of the catalogue and the poster campaign—is evidently meant to be the climax of the exhibition. And the eruption of colour throughout the flooring and walls is undoubtedly visually impactful. Await the viral photos on social media! But her signature use of spray guns offers a slickness to the impact, which lacks the heat or fallibility of human contact and makes it hard—for me, at least—to feel emotionally moved by the knowledge.

By comparison, Rooney’s set up, which you circle again to right before descending downstairs, is like remaining swallowed into the tummy of a portray with all the gastric juices flowing. The vivid oranges and pinks and creamy primrose yellows dash and dribble all around the room, punctuated only by wild flashes of oil stick. There’s all the charm of spring development, but also the gravity of entropy and decay. In a poetic text at the threshold of the room, she explains how “before I start out painting, I like to set my bare ft on a bit of earth. So that I can truly feel the power and power of all that is going on under ground”. The paint is then labored in levels, which are eroded with an electrical sander, in order to get better beneath-passages. It’s as if the portray has been introduced to the brink of demise so that it can be charged with the flush of new lifestyle. And I can’t support but believe: this is how it goes right on shining.

Fugues in Color, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, right until 29 August

Curators: Suzanne Pagé (standard curator), Ludovic Delalande, Nathalie Ogé, Claire Staebler, Claudia Buizza

• Eleanor Nairne is a curator at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

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