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PIERRE SOULAGES is not a great painter. HIs work is a slick confection of stylistic motifs and visual ideas lifted from other artists, most obviously Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Frank Stella. Soulages explains the existential significance of his oeuvre in pretentious writings, filled with clichés and idées récues about art-making and the persona of the artist. In these screeds, Soulages tirelessly reminds us that he is a great visionary and the last of the great modernists. His efforts to secure his reputation have culminated in the Musée Soulages in Rodez, a national museum, which he founded and provisioned with 500 of his own works. President François Hollande will inaugurate the museum on 31 May 2014, with the 95-year old Soulages in attendance.

According to Soulages, it is through his unique personal style and technique—the action-filled, gestural brushmarks—coming into contact with the néant of the empty canvas, that his art gains access to existential truths. Those claims are undermined somewhat by Soulages’ prodigious print production, which mechanically reproduces his paintings. Easy ironies aside, Soulages is a superb print maker, and like Daniel Buren, he has an expert’s understanding of the decorative capacities of certain types of abstract art.

The works shown here are all prints after paintings. A subsequent post will focus on Soulages etchings.


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