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CLOSE-UP: NEUTRAL SOLUTION

AT FIRST GLANCE, they seem self-evident: The best-known works of the French painter Michel Parmentier appear so clear, so direct, so whole, as to be their own last word. The artist began making these impassive horizontally striped paintings in late 1965, first on a stretcher and then through a process of folding that derived from the pliage method Simon Hantaï had been developing since 1960—the crumpling or knotting of a support before brushing it with paint—even as it refused what Parmentier saw as the seductive nature of the elder man’s famously variable results, rendering the practice wholly routine, the markings relentlessly standardized. By the time he began showing with his fellow painters Daniel Buren, Olivier Mosset, and Niele Toroni in January 1967, Parmentier had limited his paintings to a single color per year, with perfectly even bands of sprayed-on paint, their width

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