Claude Viallat’s season is nothing if not colourful: after the Quelques Pas de Côté / A Couple of Sidesteps show at the Templon Brussels space which recently ended, Galerie Templon is holding a new exhibition tracing five decades of the artist’s work in the French capital, running in parallel to the major retrospective of his art at Carré d’Art in Nîmes.
In contrast to the Belgian exhibition featuring twenty recent works, the Paris show is presenting a carefully curated selection of ten key pieces, all created between 1966 and 2023. Multi-coloured, striped and flowered fabrics hang on the gallery walls, lighting up the space with a palette of subtle hues: pistachio, pine green, lemon yellow, ultramarine and terracotta. On their surface we can see the artist’s signature small bone shape emerging, painted there almost obsessively. A bold, intuitive, spontaneous dialogue between industrial tarpaulins and household linen arises from the creations, suddenly transformed by their verticality and the painter’s gesture.
One of the founding members of the avant-garde Supports/Surfaces group in the 1970s, Claude Viallat has become a leading light of French painting. He has spent almost half a century turning his back on stretchers and canvases and helping to revolutionize the discourse around painting with a radical stance that defies the codes of volume and space. He soon built an international reputation: he was selected to represent his country on the French pavilion at the 43rd Venice Biennale in 1988, while his work has featured in numerous solo exhibitions held in Buenos Aires, Casablanca, Miami, Sao Paulo, Tokyo, Milan, Ankara and Montreal. His work is included in a wide range of major public collections, including at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Musée National d’Art Moderne – Centre Pompidou in Paris, MoMA in New York, Musée des Beaux-Arts in Montreal, National Museum of Art in Osaka, and Philadelphia Museum of Art in the USA.
At the age of 87, he is a key figure in the history of art who has played an active part in almost half a century of social debate by using his disconcerting work to ask radical questions about his favourite discipline: is it possible to step out of the conventional frame of the canvas while still creating a work of art which claims to be “painting”? How can expressive power be made to spring from materials that are so heterogeneous, worn, already overflowing with motifs and patterns?
Claude Viallat was born in 1936 in Nîmes, France, where he continues to live and work. The Supports/Surfaces movement his name is inextricably linked to called for art to renew itself through a deconstruction of traditional materials. The many solo exhibitions of his work include shows at the Venet Foundation in southeastern France (2019), Musée Fabre in Montpellier (2014), Ludwig Museum in Germany (2014), Museo Universitario del Chopo in Mexico (2004), MuBe in Brazil (2001), Kunsthalle Düsseldorf in Germany (1983) and Musée National d’Art Moderne – Centre Pompidou in Paris (1982). He represented France at the 43rd Venice Biennale in Italy in 1988. A large-scale installation Claude Viallat created in 1982 was exhibited in 2018 at Art Basel Unlimited. From 27 October 2023 to 11 February 2024, a major exhibition of his work will be held at Carré d’Art in Nîmes while the Fondation Claude Viallat, designed by architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, is preparing to take over the walls of the Saint Joseph Chapel in Nîmes. The new Paris exhibition is the artist’s 12th with Galerie Templon, which has represented him for over twenty years.