press release

May 4–August 29, 2022

Fugues in Color

The exhibition Fugues in Color brings together five painters from the international art scene, all from different backgrounds and generations: Sam Gilliam, Katharina Grosse, Steven Parrino, Megan Rooney, Niele Toroni. Through their own abstracted vocabularies, they push the traditional limits of the pictorial medium. Painting leaves the restricted field of the stretched canvas, discovering a new freedom in the color/support relationship, extending into space, across floor, wall, and ceiling. As variations on the expansion of color, the works brought together here engage in close dialogue with the architecture of Frank Gehry.

In addition to the group of works by Sam Gilliam, Steven Parrino, and Niele Toroni, which include major loans, both private and from public institutions, Katharina Grosse and Megan Rooney have each created new ephemeral pieces for the exhibition.

Gallery 8: Megan Rooney
A multidisciplinary artist, Megan Rooney combines painting, sculpture, performance, and writing in a single work. For her, the act of painting is an immense physical and mental commitment that culminates in her monumental canvases, as here in With Sun, an original, ephemeral mural created especially for Gallery 8, connecting the full height of the wall.

To create the work, equipped with various tools and with the help of an elevated platform, Rooney, embarked on a long-term performance that continued over several weeks. As is always the case with the artist, the work was constructed in close dialogue with the architecture, without any preparatory sketches. Day after day, the layers of paint accumulate. The artist, then, uses an abrasive disc on the surface, bringing to the fore abstract configurations. Here, Rooney explores the density of a brilliant, rich, and colorful palette, dominated by shimmering shades and variations of orange, mauve, yellow, green, pink, even pastel tones. Inspired by the particularities of the space open to the sky, the artist has created a painting informed by the connection to the surrounding nature—a constant catalyst in her work—in harmony with the luminous modulations of spring sunlight and its vibrations that flood the space.

Gallery 9: Sam Gilliam, Steven Parrino
Sam Gilliam is a major figure in postwar American painting. His work is associated with the Washington Color School, a branch of Color Field painting that developed in New York in the 1950s.

In 1968, he began the Drape paintings, through which he defined a new pictorial language, and explored the potential of the surface and the expansion of the color field. The three monumental works shown here are characteristic of this series, which marks both the complete abandonment of the stretcher and the advent of a painting whose form unfurls each time according to the architectural particularities of the exhibition space. In his studio, Gilliam works on canvas laid out on the floor, on to which he pours heavily diluted acrylic pigments that he then dabs, rubs, or presses with brushes and rags. In the stream of colors that flow across both faces of the folds, in the hollows and curves, random forms appear—flat areas, lines, drips, traces, and other imprints—constructed at that moment.

When the canvas is saturated, the artist manipulates it, folding and crumpling it, rolling it up, before leaving it to dry. Sometimes he adds aluminum powder and applies acrylic paint here and there, creating effects of matter and texture that contrast with the flat surface impregnated with colors. In a second step, the canvas is knotted at several points before being suspended freely in the space, between floor, wall, and ceiling. In this new installation, the lyrical, vibrant power of color redefines Frank Gehry’s architecture, in a tension between order and disorder.

Overturning the boundaries between painting and sculpture, Steven Parrino freed the canvas from its flatness, taking color out of the frame and letting it flow into space. The works presented here belong to the series of misshaped canvases that the artist began developing in 1981.

Steven Parrino defined the process for realizing his works in advance: once the support and dimensions were decided, he painted the surface in a uniform way—with acrylic, a spray can, with enamel paint, or lacquer. He then carried out a series of violent actions: unframing, tearing, twisting, and crumpling the painted support, then refixing it on the stretcher, often after retouching it. These interventions shift painting’s two-dimensional surface to the three-dimensionality of relief and sculpture. In addition, the artist’s significant physical involvement in the process gives the works a performative character.

On the wall, the canvases of four tondi and a pierced square were carefully painted before being manipulated to create vortex effects in relief. On the floor, two installations of crumpled canvas become sculptures. At the inter-section of high and low culture, here Parrino chose brilliant colors, selected just as much for their symbolic meaning.

Gallery 11: Niele Toroni
An artist known for his nomadic, beyond-the-frame practices, making his imprints indoors and out, Niele Toroni redefines the spaces he occupies by adapting his works to the exhibition site. Since 1966, he has been creating monochrome imprints with flat brushes, 5 cm wide, which he applies to a given surface at regular intervals of 30 cm. Even though this “painting-work” is the result of an identically repeated gesture, each imprint is different, varying depending on the quantity of paint, the force of the gesture, the type of support, its form, and the color chosen.

Toroni is present here with a group of works created between 1967 and 1997, which are testament to the diversity of his supports. The waxed canvas the artist used early in his career allowed him to extend the imprints in relation to the size of the wall. Cut to requirements, the location informed how much paint was visible.

With Flambo, a brand of displays used in home decor stores, Toroni placed his different colored imprints on the movable panels that make up the object, while Hommage aux hirondelles (Homage to the swallows) is placed high in an angle, like a bird’s nest. The tondi with the “reds” of Bordeaux stem from the imprints the artist made on wine barrels. The four paintings forming a whole each feature different colored imprints: red, yellow, blue, black. The color gives rhythm to each canvas of this pictorial score.

Gallery 10—Katharina Grosse
Since the late 1990s, Katharina Grosse has been exploring the potentialities of painting far beyond the limits of frame or canvas. Embracing floors, walls, ceilings, objects, or entire landscapes, she creates multidimensional pictorial sites thanks to the color projection technique that has become her signature, the spray gun. Color is at the center of her work, and is the link between them all. The question of scale, even the fusion of painting/architecture/sculpture recurs throughout her work, as in this project conceived in close dialogue with Frank Gehry’s building.
With Splinter, the artist creates a varied dynamic element, composed of triangular forms, from which color launches itself with great momentum. Made up of twenty plywood triangles nested on a self-supporting structure, the piece occupies part of Gallery 10’s right wall, functioning like a visual “spark” connecting floor and ceiling. Following the structure’s installation in the space, the next step was to paint it and everything surrounding it. Using a stencil, Katharina Grosse created a void in the center, as if the sunlight streaming through the skylight had come to “burn” the paint. In the words of the artist, “a painting can land anywhere, can remain anywhere… Painting isn’t connected to a place. It tries out—and dramatically compresses—the characteristics of reality.”

General Curator
Suzanne Pagé, Artistic Director of the Fondation Louis Vuitton

Ludovic Delalande, Nathalie Ogé and Claire Staebler with Claudia Buizza