Black on Black? Soulages!

Lithograph, 67 by 52 cm

Who’d ever guess that painting black on black would get you a million dollars and more? The miracle – because it is another Contemporary Art miracle – is called Soulages, a 94 year-old, 6 foot tall Frenchman who still paints everyday, spreading his favorite color, black, searching for the perfect point of black. His earlier paintings, dating back to the 1950s-60s, can fetch up to $4 million.

He’s probably the most famous living artist in France, he’s in the greatest museums, the Guggenheim, the Tate, he’s exhibited in the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. His work has even inspired fashion collections (see article below). And now he’s coming to New York, in two galleries, Emmanuel Perrotin and Dominique Levy (in the same building, 909 Madison Avenue and 73rd Street). 

Personally, I am not fond of abstract art but I can see the point (and the pleasure) you can derive from his works. They are solidly structured, and the restrained use of a bright color here and there brings out the mysterious darkness of the black that permeates all his paintings. A perfect black that leaves no doubt about the color – or, if you prefer, the non-color. Look at that blue in the lithograph shown here. It makes the black bars all the more striking, even threatening.

If you’re lucky enough to be in New York and can make it to the show, you’ll see a lot of his work dating back to the 1950s and 60s. For example, this one:

This is a very large painting (ca. 130cm x 162 cm ), so what you see on your digital device doesn’t really do justice to it.

In the more recent works, Soulages has wholly gone black on black, with variations only in the texture, allowing for reflections of light that play off differently depending on where you look at them, like in this painting dated 2013:

People have read into this symbolism and memories of World War II and all sorts of other interpretations that the painter himself does not subscribe to. My personal opinion is that the best way to enjoy this kind of art is to stick to what you see and let your eyes play with the light, full stop. But that’s just my opinion, what’s yours?

Soulages (source: Photo AP, UK Guardian article)

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One Comment Add yours

  1. claudenougat says:

    He’s 94 and spent his life painting black on black, amazing obsession!


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