Looking Back: Supports/Surfaces, An Art Movement

During a rebellion of French art and a reaction against French politics, the art movement Supports/Surfaces formed in 1969 and lasted until 1974. The movement, which consisted of 12 artists whose ethos was to to deconstruct the perceived preconceptions of art through visually taking a part the canvas and essentially creating the supports and surfaces of what art represents.

The group shared a Maoist revolutionary ideology and was influenced by the abstract Color Field theories of Clement Greenberg. Supports/Surfaces were responding to their American Abstract Expressionists whose contemporaries, such as Jackson Pollock, Kenneth Noland and Jules Olitski, had already begun expanding art into a visual demonstration that was not seen before. Surfaces/Supports saw the artist as an “all-powerful creator whose ‘creations’ are but merchandise’. The group lived outside the cultural hub of Paris in Nimes as they did not want to be associated with the French art institution and rather revolted against it. In doing so, they radically changed the display of artworks by exhibiting them on the beaches, leaning against walls and hanging from medieval building.

The exhibition at CANADA Gallery clearly defines the revolt against the normality of art. The artworks displayed further expands the movement of American Abstract Expressionism, where Supports/Surfaces focus on the materials of the paintings. The art movement rebuilt the groundings of a painting in the sense of creating architectural type sculptures of what may have been painted on the canvas. For example, when Claude Viallat hangs loose netting from a wall, he portrays the material of the canvas through the knots in the netting and pays homage to the history of the weaving of the fabric on the canvas. The netting catches and holds objects as does the canvas in relation to paint. The use of vibrant color and shapes in Viallat’s work was influenced by Matisse.

Supports/Surfaces questions pre-conceptual thoughts of modern abstraction. The exhibition allows viewers to dwell deep into the roots of art and question not only how art is constructed, but why Supports/Surfaces create art that portrays the beginnings of creation.

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