“La peinture apres l’abstraction”

Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris

Sometimes a silly idea can lead to a fascinating exhibition even as the silliness still shows through. When I first heard about “La peinture après l’abstraction,” documenting work done in Paris between 1955 and 1975 by five artists as unlike as Simon Hantaï, Jean Degottex, Martin Barré, Raymond Hains, and Jacques de la Villeglé, I thought the project utterly crackpot. I still think so; Degottex’s inclusion shows how little thought went into the mix. But the beauty is that Degottex’s oeuvre inadvertently serves as a repoussoir: The contrast his work provides helps demonstrate what the four others had in common, something the hanging of the exhibition often seemed designed to obscure.

So what did Hains, Villeglé, Hantaï, and Barré have in common? Call it an attitude, or a peculiar, even eerie encounter with Historical Necessity: All four share a desire to change the terms of what we might

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