François Morellet’s Final Farewell: A Solo Show in London

May 16, 2016 8:40PM

When you think about recent artwork featured in an exhibition centered on the artist’s 90th birthday, you might expect a collection of elegant oil paintings or perhaps a series of delicate watercolors—not the minimal installations and glowing sculptures currently on view at Annely Juda Fine Art in London. Then again, François Morellet was never a conventional artist.

A key figure in 20th-century geometric abstraction and kinetic art, the French-born painter, sculptor, and neon artist developed his practice over a lifetime. He recently passed away, midway through “François Morellet, 90,” an exhibition of his recent work at Annely Juda Fine Art—a gallery that has been exhibiting his work for nearly four decades.

To understand Morellet’s artistic legacy, you have to go back to Paris in the 1960s, when Morellet was a founding member of Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel (GRAV), a collective that emphasized the audience’s experience over the identity of an individual artist. Morellet engaged directly with the viewer through his visually challenging sculptures and installations. His tilting geometric planes and subtle asymmetries compel the viewer to look closer, to examine the work, to try to make sense of it.

Morellet often thought of his work as part of this larger collective, citing their shared enthusiasm for neon art and unconventional material. “We particularly liked anything that could produce movement or light,” he once said. Yet he never stopped pushing forward in his individual practice. Highlights of the current show include the whimsical sky-blue Cercle à demi-libéré n°1 (2013) and the charmingly askew La débâcle n°1 (2013).

The gallerist David Juda, who knew Morellet for several decades, commented on the artist’s passing. “François was a truly wonderful artist and friend, working right up to the last moment with new and innovative works. We had the honor to exhibit his work for nearly 40 years; he always kept in his art both a seriousness as well as humor, and I believe that what he has given us in his lifetime will blossom even more in the future. My thoughts go to all his family, especially Danielle, who worked so closely with him. I thank François for all that he gave us.”

—Bridget Gleeson

François Morellet, 90” is on view at Annely Juda Fine Art, London, Apr. 5–Jun. 24, 2016.

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