Louis Cane

Year and place of birth: 1943, Beaulieu-sur-mer, France Location: Paris, France

Louis Cane is a painter and theorist. Together with artists such as Claude Viallat, Marc Devade and Daniel Dezeuze, he rose to prominence as a member of the Supports/Surfaces movement. This group reverted to the material-technical act of painting. All forms of lyricism were prohibited. The only relevant research was into the basic elements of the painting, namely frame, canvas and surface. The individuality of the artist was firmly relegated to the background or completely ignored. Inspiration came from the Japanese Gutaï group, which emerged from 1955 onwards and whose members took a similar theoretical and formal view of art. Although Cane’s work was mostly purely formalist in nature, he also had strong theoretical interests in history, economics and society. Unlike the majority of the Supports/Surfaces artists, Cane always tested the potential role of painting against these ideas. Together with artists Vincent Bioulès, Marc Devade and Daniel Dezeuze, he established the journal ‘Peinture-Cahiers Théorique’ in ’71, which served as a platform for art-theoretical reflections.

Supports/Surfaces was a short-lived movement. It was founded in 1969 and disbanded as early as 1972, after which its members evolved in various stylistic and thematic directions, from free figuration to abstract expressionism and (geometric) abstraction. Unlike many of his peers, who deepened their artistic research into the painterly medium, Cane’s principal focus at the time was the systematic analysis of paint, canvas and colour in painting. From a practical and theoretical standpoint, he concentrated on the relationship and changeability of colour and form by examining an array of juxtapositions, e.g. ‘opposite’ vs. ‘adjacent’.

From the late 1960s to the early 1980s, several partially overlapping strategies can be detected in Crane’s explorations of colour and form. In ‘67, he began to make the ‘Papiers Découpés’ series: simple, abstract, primary-coloured motifs painted in oil on paper, arranged in a repetitive grid, and attached to canvas. It is an extremely painterly body of work. At the same time, he developed his ‘Toiles Tamponées’: canvases printed with stamps in rhythmic grid patterns. These often featured the words ‘Louis Cane Peintre’, emphasising that he considered the artist’s identity to be secondary to the formal appearance of the artwork. He took a more conceptual approach to painting in this series. Cane often abandoned the grid pattern in the early 1970s in order to expand his exploration of the relationship between colour, form and texture on larger, geometric surfaces. This resulted in the better-known series ‘Toiles Découpés’ and ‘Sol-Murs’. In the former series, he cut away sections of monochrome painted canvases so that the colour and texture of the exhibition wall became part of the painting. In the latter series, he allowed parts of monochrome canvases to extend across the floor. These works are situated between painting, sculpture and installation.

In the early 1980s, Cane halted his abstract-theoretical research into the fundamentals of painting and focused on its more pleasurable aspects. Ensembles of work with a mostly lyrical-figurative, expressionist slant, not infrequently with nods to Cézanne, Picasso or Velázquez, revolved around classical themes such as crucifixes and female nudes. Although Cane received less attention with this kind of work, his radical, theoretical and intuitive research into the basic elements of painting had a conceptual – and not to be underestimated – influence on the development of European fundamental painting in the 1970s.

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