“WB: But hopefully it doesn’t stop there. I think of it as calling up the tensions between where something comes from, how it was made, and how it appears. That’s why I tend to create situations where the form of the work is dictated by something that is functioning on its own, outside of my purposes, like settling dust, or X-ray machines, or FedEx. I think this allows the work to spill into questions beyond representation, which is where most discussions of art and politics dead-end. But speaking of context, and in terms of your work with the Radical Painting Group, I wonder what made the monochrome viable as painting for you again. Was it the American context?
OM: When I started to paint in France, the monochrome was defined by the work of Yves Klein. It was unavoidable, so if you did a one-color painting, it was a monochrome, and it was Yves Klein. At the time, we knew about Malevich, but we didn’t know about Rodchenko, and his “last painting.” So monochrome painting was Yves Klein and the new realist movement, and for me Klein was not even painting, it was more like a gesture. The circle was going against the idea of a monochrome, and from there, I did stripe paintings and these white stripes on white and red stripes on red. This made me consider just putting paint on a canvas. But you’re right, when I came to the States, there were people working with one-colour paintings but coming at it in a different way, and it seemed possible to work with it and not fall into these past problems. It was a welcome change. When I came to New York around 1977, the dominant discourse was the return to the figure, the return to Expressionism, with people like Schnabel or Salle and the Germans and Italians, so the monochrome was a reaction to that as well.” [Walead Beshty and Olivier Mosset in Conversation]
“Red, white, yellow monochromes play with space. Indeed, Olivier Mosset with Red Square places the work in the corner of the room, while another white monochrome White Ceiling Painting is suspended from the ceiling. Here the artist refers directly to the history of art and the works of the artists at the beginning of abstraction such as Malevich, Vladimir Tatline, or those of the Bauhaus. On the walls sit large monochromes. These works directly question space – the space of the works, of painting, of the object, but also that of art [history] and the space of the viewer. They have been carefully installed in order to manipulate the painting object as much as possible. Olivier Mosset also produces shaped-canvases, paintings whose outer edge exactly follows the painted pattern. The shaped-canvases are most often monochromes – borrowed forms – the star painted in red, pink and blue for example. Any reference to a logo or a symbol is subverted by a change of color or placement forcing the viewer to see only what is in front of him. The sculpture placed between the stairs and the entrance/exit of the exhibition creates another play of [visual] space for the viewer. Untitled (Toblerones) are six identical, imposing geometric forms reproduced from a 1994 cardboard work shown at the Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts in Sion. The piece is based on the anti-tank dams designed by the Swiss army, forms which look like the famous Toblerone bars. For the viewer these forms function like decoy sculptures – a half dam in space – but they’re seen as more of a succession of grayish planes. [Mosset’s] radical, minimalist work begins to extend into three dimensions. [My awful interpretation]
“…Mosset stuck with a minimalist presentation of static finitude in order to bring into sharper focus an immanent sense of being in the world (as opposed to a Heideggerian “Being” in the world, or a never-ending phenomenalist argument of sense and perception). An actualized phenomenology of being has a part to play in Mosset’s works only to the extent that it imparts a reassuring fullness to a quotidian satori. In other words, Mosset’s work doesn’t rely upon any historical dialectic of the ontological narrative and its attendant “facticity,” so much as it calls forth a direct encounter with the materiality of being sans the argument of the fact. Curiously, it’s this minimally affected mode that constitutes the poetic dimension of the work. Mosset’s paintings embody the poetics of being in a monumentally unheroic and contradictory glory: simultaneously abstract and real.” [Tom McGlynn on Olivier Mosset]