Paul Rodgers/9W is pleased to present as its summer 2010 exhibition the work of Simon Hantaï. Focusing on two large format paintings, Study (1969) and Tabula (1980), this exhibition seeks to identify the discovery, borrowing from the artist's own words, of “what my true subject is: the resurgence of the ground beneath my feet”.
In his 2006 study, entitled ‘Simon Hantaï in America’, Carter Ratcliff stated: “In Europe, Simon Hantaï has long been recognized as a major painter. In the United States, he is nearly unknown. This is odd because he is one of the very few artists, European or American, who responded to Jackson Pollock’s poured paintings in a genuinely original manner.” In 1976, Hantaï had had a major mid-career retrospective at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. In 1982, he represented France at the Venice Biennial. Shortly thereafter, he made the surprise public announcement that he was withdrawing from commercial exhibition of his work. He maintained this stance until the end of his life, dying during the night of September 11th, 2008. In addition, the Centre Pompidou had announced in its calendar that it was going to organize a full retrospective, which would open October 1993. This exhibition never took place because the artist respectfully declined. As a consequence, even those most attentive to international developments in contemporary art may be forgiven for not being aware of Hantaï’s achievement. The fact is, over the last twenty five years, the work of this major artist has been withheld from public attention.
This public stance on an artist’s part must now be clarified. Hantaï had no quarrel with the sale of art. However, his strong conviction was that, in the first instance, art constituted aesthetic and intellectual value. His concern was that when art was conceived in terms of financial exchange, as had increasingly become the case in the contemporary art world, then this more urgent and profound meaning, specific to art, ran the danger of being lost. Many people in the contemporary art world share this opinion, but few have found a way to respond. Spanning the second half of the twentieth century, engaging the entire history of modern and contemporary art from, specifically, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso and Pollock through to Warhol, Judd and Smithson, exploring its great themes of ‘automatism’, mechanical production, real experience and human identity in the ‘subject’, Hantaï indeed developed a response and his work, in consequence,is central to a full accounting of the art of our time.
With almost two years having elapsed since the artist’s death, a new phase in the presentation of his work has already begun. Hantaï is no longer here to maintain the integrity of his attachment to the aesthetic and intellectual vocation of his art. Others are taking direction of his posterity and will act as they see fit. This exhibition, accompanied by a substantial text written for the occasion, intends to keep faith with the artist and continue to emphasize the aesthetic and intellectual presentation of his work. As one of the artist’s principal collectors, and as a close confidant and supporter of over thirty years standing, its organizer feels this responsibility. The exhibition is dedicated to the values for which Simon Hantaï stood, which we shared, and to his memory.
Click the image above to see a slide show of installation shots