“Cholet–New York”

Kamel Mennour | Rue du Pont de Lodi
6, rue du Pont de Lodi
April 27, 2017–July 22, 2017

Kamel Mennour | Rue Saint-André des Arts
47 Rue Saint-André des Arts
April 27–July 22

View of “Cholet–New York,” 2017.

François Morellet, who died last year, designated himself the “freak child of Mondrian and Picabia.” Morellet created grid-based paintings and abstract planar compositions that look sober and rigorous yet reflect the artist’s declaration that “art is frivolous even when it takes itself seriously.” Upon entering the gallery (the exhibition extends to Kamel Mennour’s Pont de lodi space), one sees three square oil-on-wood pieces from 1958, 1969, and 1970, hung on patterned wallpaper, titled Trames, 1972. The adjacent room contains a vitrine of decorative mosaics photographed at the Alhambra, which inspired a series of spare silhouettes Morellet painted in oils using sharp angles (“2 fois 90°, 90°, 45°, 45°, etc.,” 1957). He also played with materiality, using adhesive for large-scale patterning and installations in flashing neon. The show celebrates the artist’s prototypical contributions to Minimalism and Conceptualism, but it also asks: Why are some artists more well known than others? Morellet’s legacy is framed against his transatlantic contemporaries—better-recognized figures such as Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, Sol LeWitt, and Fred Sandback, whose works also appear in the show. Having always resided in the French town of Cholet, away from Paris, Morellet lacked visibility.

A beef ensued when the February 1973 issue of Flash Art noted the similarities between a work LeWitt made in 1969 and a piece done by Morellet more than a decade earlier. LeWitt responded with several column inches of protest in the magazine: “Single works can always be shown to be similar to other single works,” he rationalized. In a letter to his then partner, Beatrice Conrad-Eybesfeld, LeWitt wrote: “To say I copy ideas is not true but if they become part of my mentality they are mine also.” An artist’s work is never, ultimately, examined wholly on its own terms.

— Sarah Moroz