In a vivid installation organized by color, this exhibition of monochrome paintings brings together the work of postwar European masters Alberto Burri (1915–95), Lucio Fontana (1899–1968), Yves Klein (1928–62), and Piero Manzoni (1933–63) with contemporary artist Rudolf Stingel (b.1956) to examine the enduring artistic practice of working within the bounds of a single color.
The earliest monochrome in the exhibition is Yves Klein’s IKB 208 (1957). The sumptuous concentration of the artist’s famous blue hue in this work exemplifies his quest to transcend material boundaries through saturated dispersions of color and is reiterated in his gold-leafed Monogold painting from 1961. Seizing the optical properties of space and light essential to the perception of color, Klein induces a limitless space that breaches the two-dimensional canvas and engulfs the three-dimensional reality of the viewer.
Likewise, Lucio Fontana—a notable attendee of the 1957 exhibition at Galerie Apollinaire in which Klein exhibited his series of identical blue canvases—emphasized spatial infinity by redefining the dimensionality of the picture plane. In his emblematic Concetto Spaziale (Spatial concept) series, which consists of single-color canvases pierced by vertical slashes, Fontana manually introduced a third dimension by violating the surface of the canvas. Immersing the viewer in boundless immaterial space, the painted surface transcends outward while the dark chasm retreats into infinite depth.
The monochromists working in Europe during the 1950s and 1960s shared a unique vision that celebrated the vast possibilities of color, whether to transform space, perception, and consciousness, or to distill an art object to its physical essence. Their faith in painting as a powerful cognitive instrument was transformative to subsequent movements of minimalism, conceptualism, as well as to countless artists working today. Rudolf Stingel embraces this artistic legacy through a contemporary perspective, creating a body of evocative monochrome paintings imbued with impressions of their nuanced past.