A Riff On Duchamp’s ReadyMade: Olivier Mosset’s ‘The Kitchen Paintings’

The Swiss-born minimalist painter Olivier Mosset is known for his four-decade-long dedication to geometric abstraction and painting form and material. As a member of a conceptual group known as “BMPT” (the acronym taken from the last initials of Mosset, Daniel Buren, Michel Parmentier, and Niele Toroni) in the 1960s, Mosset worked to challenge traditional methods of art creation and its social function. By deskilling their art and making it easy for another artist to easily construct and reproduce the piece, BMPT sought to subvert authorship and originality in art, instead showing their work solely as objects rather than individually expressive pieces. 

Mosset’s work today continues to explore these themes. “The Kitchen Paintings,” originally presented in 2013 at The Kitchen, New York, features three sets of four monochrome paintings each. The groups are each a series of letters that reference the art of Marcel Duchamp. Individual letters are large, specially shaped canvases painted in single bright colors: pink, blue, yellow, orange, green, red.

When it comes to labeling these works in small groups, Mosset says: “There is a Frank Stella type of thing going on, and a subtle game with Duchamp in the titling.” One group, Untitled (TUTU) (2013), is a nod at Duchamp’s drawing of a ballerina and Dadaist ballet, but the painting group also refers to Mosset’s personal connection with a ballerina and his enjoyment of ballet. Another group, Untitled (MUTT) (2013), is a clear reference to Duchamp’s joking signature, “R. Mutt 1917,” on the side of his famous readymade object, Fountain (1917). The last set, Untitled TUM’ (2013), borrows the title of Duchamp’s Tu m’ (1918), a painting commissioned from Duchamp by artist Katherine Dreier. Tu m’ might be a reference to the French phrase, “tu m’ennuies,” or, “you bore me,” and might describe Duchamp’s attitude toward painting at the time. As an artist who radically challenged and withdrew expression from painting himself, Mosset would no doubt appreciate Duchamp’s sentiment.

Olivier Mosset: The Kitchen Paintings” is on view at Galerie Andrea Caratsch, Zürich, Dec. 1, 2014–April 7, 2015. 

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