by Dilpreet BhullarJan 27, 2023
To tie an organic thread of connection between art, music, and architecture requires a subtle attention to the nuanced play of harmony between the 'supposed' three disparate disciplines. The latest exhibition at Fondation CAB Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France, with a dozen of minimalistic works from its collection, curated by Grégory Lang underscores the presence of a rhythmic progression signifying the pieces of art. Lang is an independent curator and contemporary art consultant collaborating with private collections, artist-run spaces, and institutions. He founded Solang Production and Advisory in 2008, co-producing numerous visual artists' projects, films, and documentaries.
The exhibition titled On the Approach - A perspective on the collection by the Fondation brings together minimalist works by the artists hailing from America - Dan Flavin, John McCracken, Kenneth Noland, Keith Sonnier, Frank Stella, Anne Truitt - and Europe - Josef Albers, Martin Barré, André Cadere, Imi Knœbel, Claude Rutault, Heimo Zobernig. In an effort to trace the import of the minimalistic art in the current times, the exhibition by Belgian contemporary artist Ann Veronica Janssens runs at the same time at the Fondation. To mention, it elaborately houses one of the largest collections of modern art in the world. This turns it into a perfect spot to display a private collection and share the deeply inclined proclivity towards minimalist and conceptual art with a variety of audiences.
In an interview with STIR, Lang offers an explicit account of these parallels between the minimalistic art of the constructive and contemporary period, “I was immediately drawn to the simplest, the most sincere artworks in the collection. I intuitively took a rigorous stand, highlighting solely works with a strong sense of physicality and relation to architecture. The questions at the core in this exhibition are the ones of trust and time, of attendance granted to the work of art, of presence against speed." The Fondation CAB in Brussels and St-Paul-de-Vence acutely reflected on Hubert Bonnet's passion for minimal art and his personal art collection. It consequently anchors an inspiration from the Constructivist period to the current day while embarking on the task to showcase work by artists who share a distinct practice and aesthetic. Lang continues, "Nowadays, minimalist art is still expanding the abstract idea that visual art should have its own reality without imitating another. In relation to the exponential multiplication of digital and virtual supports, minimalism tautological approach allows the onlookers to respond only to what is in front of them. Minimalist art precedes the reflections of contemporary artists operating with an economy of means, to the point of privileging the idea over the realisation. Its influence can also be found in the object and fashion design. The relevance of minimal art today lies in our need for physical experiences and slow temporalities. It creates an impactful breathing time, while questioning the sustainability of our relationship to new media."
The exhibition space at the CAB Foundation is not limited to a conventional white cube space, but it is a large complex volume. A mezzanine, on one side of the complex, intersects the high ceiling and a curved wall opens, through a huge bay window, onto the southern landscape on the other. Lang mentions, "At first glance, the quality of the architecture is underlined and reinforced,” when he discusses the relationship between the minimalistic art and the aesthetic of the built environment. He adds, "The exhibited works sculpt the space either with their immaterial vibration, as the ones by Albers and Flavin, or with their structure and their monochromatic composition, as the ones by Stella and Knoebel. All these artists create perceptual variations, questioning the structure of the artworks and enhancing their relationship with architecture. I also intended to create a new mental space between the works in presence, beyond their spatial proximity.”
As aforementioned, each of the chosen works take part in a spatial composition imbued with musicality. The exhibition with minimalistic artworks opens a set of geometries that carve divisions in terms of sections of the canvases and lines of different colours. The result is rooted in the spectrum of tones and tenures. The play of colours expands the fields of perception for the viewers. Lang elucidates, “These complex hues, resulting from subtle blends, enhance perception by echoing one another. While the shades and shapes of the artworks are similar, the colour variations are at the centre of our attention. The relationships between tones and visual effects, induced by the juxtaposition of coloured surfaces, create fine correspondences and tensions between the artworks. This synesthetic visual and sonorous feeling is reinforced by the geometrical play on recurring structures: here, single or combined squares and rectangles - almost all monochromatic. In this exhibition, our bodies are deeply engaged, and our perceptive relationship to colour is stimulated by correspondences and resonances between the artworks, in the manner of musical prose."
The emphasis on the visual perception of the display is a way to facilitate a surrounding of identification and awareness for the audience. "The encounters between those works imbue them with a unique and ephemeral presence in the framework of this exhibition, as they 'approach' the tenuous hazy threshold between art and life," Lang puts it succinctly. When the curator aims to evoke the context that is conducive to the sensory experience and rhythm of the onlooker, it opens the avenue of immense possibilities to sharpen their awareness in a suspended time.
The art exhibition On the Approach runs at Fondation CAB Saint-Paul-de-Vence, until October 29, 2022.