Centre Pompidou, Paris (FR)   14 October 2020 - 24 March 2021

Martin Barré

Considered one of the most important abstract painters of the second half of the 20th century, Martin Barré (1924-1993) is featured in a retrospective exhibition at the Centre Pompidou. Bringing together 66 paintings from 1955 to 1992, including twelve of the twenty or so from the Centre Pompidou’s collection, the exhibition presents the major sequences in his work and their specific logic. In parallel, the 14 canvases that make up his work L’Indissociable (1977-78), are on show in the Museum's permanent collections spaces. This has only been displayed once before, in 1979, during the exhibition at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris.

Curator : Michel Gauthier and Rita Cusimano

From the mid-1950s, Martin Barré developed a distinctive, abstract oeuvre that was neither informal nor geometric. His painting soon became known as the most ambitious of the time, seeking to reveal space rather than to produce forms. In 1958, the Guggenheim Museum in New York began adding his work to its collection.

From 1960, Martin Barré made the line the central element of his artistic language. Initially traced directly from the tube onto the canvas, then with a spray can from 1963 to 1967, the line has a twofold advantage. It refers back more effectively to the gesture that produced it, compared to a form, whether the artist's movement or the degree of force with which the paint comes out of the tube or spray can. Unlike a form, the line does not occupy the painting’s surface, but transforms it into space through the effect of its trajectory.

After a four-year interval, taken up by a "photo-conceptual episode", Martin Barré resumed painting in 1972. Until 1977, he created five series in which the reductionist approach of the 1960s was reversed. All the series are in fact produced following the same procedure:

  1. A fragment of a grid is traced diagonally on a white ground;
  2. All or some of the spaces are filled with hatching (or marked in some other way);
  3. A more or less white coating is then applied.

In the 1980s, the figure returned to the fore, having been eliminated by the predominance of lines in the 1960s and a collateral effect of the system in the series from the 1970s. As well as the figure, colour too asserted itself, first in the series "80-81" with its subtle Pompeian tones, and then in his various final series, in which figure and colour identify with each other, set against very lightly tinted whites. These paintings can be apprehended immediately and offer a pure experience of beauty.

Works on loan

Martin BARRÉ
Martin BARRÉ
Martin BARRÉ