• gerard van weyenbergh

End of the Avant-Garde from the 60's, 1/3

Updated: Jan 2

The 1960s and 1970s was the place and the time for a formidable questioning of the very nature of art. They were the triumph of consumption, the shaking of ideologies, and the relaxation of the notion of the avant-garde. The painting's crisis will have crossed artistic practices, the profound re-examination of the form and the pictorial gesture, the appropriation of the real, the necessary intrusion of a critical language, the active and provocative diversification of his practices, and his modes of exposure. And while "foreign bodies" emerge - photography, videos, performances, installations, environments - operating modes take shape that never cease to transgress and question the limits of art. Here are some stops on these years of redefinition and development in all directions.

The triumph of American art

While the 1940s and 1950s saw America conquer pictorial modernity, the end of the decade significantly questioned the normative triumph of the abstract expressionist bias. In its extension, the artists do not abandon the questioning of painting and its subject, coupled with an unrealistic practice. Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, or Barnett Newman explore universal themes utilizing a painting with existential inflections, tending towards a metaphysical and emotional understanding of painting where the painter's gesture's expression seems more restrained than with their elders. While continuing the quest for methods capable of defining as closely as possible the nature of each medium considered, Frank Stella and Ellsworth Kelly opposed them with critical responses, freed from sensitive expression, by uniform surfaces completely covering the canvas, devoid of any symbolism. In contrast, Carl Andre, Donald Judd or Robert Morris continued in space during the 1970s, the generalized criticism of abstract expressionism. The form is reduced to its structure, its construction, and its combination with space.

The shape in question

In France, if the painting of the 1950s clearly engages in the field of abstraction, it seems difficult to identify a truly dominant register, as manifestos and movements multiply. All share the need for a renewal of pictorial issues, gradually drawing a new French abstraction dominated by gesture expressiveness. Hartung, Mathieu, Riopelle, Wols, Soulages, lyrical abstraction, tachisme, informal painting, so many different universes and names that academization and pure formalism sometimes threaten, giving way, in the 1960s, to a relativization, and to an overcoming more or less followed by the abstraction/figuration divide, at the same time as the traditional categories of fine arts, painting/sculpture, are undermined.

In the 1960s, in his lacerations of monochrome canvases, Klein converts bodies into "living brushes," François Morellet sharpens his repetitive vocabulary stemming from concrete art. The end of the 1960s was marked by the decisive seal of the collective demonstrations of BMPT and of the singular journeys that followed. Buren, Mosset, Parmentier, Toroni (BMPT) share with conceptual artists an analytical approach to art, to the detriment of form, further prolonging the rejection of the work's autonomy and originality.

© Manou Farine for " le Journal des arts"