Perrotin is pleased to present a solo exhibition of Hans Hartung in Shanghai, his first in mainland China since his solo show in 2005 at National Art Museum in China, NAMOC Beijing, and at the National Museum in Nankin. The exhibition is held concurrent with his retrospective at the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris (October 11, 2019 – March 8, 2020, curated by Odile Burluraux), which will present the various phases of his artistic production and the great diversity and consistency of his pictorial language. The exhibition follows a major exhibition at Perrotin New York in early 2018 (curated by Matthieu Poirier) which spanned seven decades of Hartung’s career from his first abstract works in 1922 through 1989, the year of his passing.
Since his first exhibition in 1931, Hans Hartung (1904-1989) paved the way for generations of artists across modern and contemporary art. His experiments in painting truly marked the 20th Century, pushing the boundaries of the form.
“At once German and French, exalted and rational, fascinated at an early age by the expressionist brutality of the woodcuts by Die Brücke, but also by the classifying distance of Paul Klee and the formal clarity of Henri Matisse, Hartung in a sense refused to choose between two simplistic visions of abstract art: on one side, eruptive and chaotic painting, based on purportedly ‘pure’ intuition, combined with the expressionist, gestural, lyrical, informal, and Tachiste tendencies of postwar painting; and, on the other, control, precision, and systems, notions that belong more to the realm of geometric abstraction.”
Ranging from 1950s through the 1980s, the paintings that will be on view at Perrotin Shanghai reveal the power, depth, and complexity of the artist’s work. The exhibition traces 3 specific days of work at his studio from 1973, 1986, and 1989. By displaying diverse works produced on the same day, visitors are able to understand the drastic shifts in technique, tools, scale, and gesture in the artist’s practice.
These three bodies of work show the artist’s rich and constant explorations during all his career. Hartung’s control and masterful display of painterly effects were remarkable throughout his life, however it was not until the last decade of his life that some of his freest and most experimental works were produced.
In the last decade of his life, Hartung expanded on the range of techniques he employed in his work by introducing new and unexpected tools into his practice. Beginning in 1979, the artist began to use branches from the olive trees surrounding his studio in lieu of a paint brush. Dipping the branches into vinyl paint, Hartung would whip his canvases with such intensity that they often had to be placed on wooden supports in order to prevent damage. Marking a new direction in the artist’s work, Hartung produced some of his most energetic and dynamic paintings during this time. Hartung continued to replace the big brushes he had been using with experimental tools and devices, including paint sprayers. By 1986, the artist introduced a new mechanism into his already extensive armory of implements known as a ‘sulfateuse’. Hartung had been using spray paint in his work since the 1960s, however, this earlier method of air spray not only required lifting heavy canisters, but also left a clearly mechanical application of paint.
The artist, who had suffered two strokes that left him physically incapacitated, embraced the new tool which entitled him to project great sweeping lines of paint with a simple flick of his wrist, combining interlacing lines with sometimes textured patches of color with varying degrees of density. From 1986 to 1989, fine mists, thick ‘clouds’, paint runs, and freely doodled lines became the formal language of the artist.
The exhibition also includes two inks on paper dating from the 1950s. Spanning 4 working decades, this presentation will allow Shanghai visitors to better understand the continuously constructed and renewed work of Hartung. An indefatigable worker, in constant search of new experiments, Hartung literally renews his work, starting from the sixties, by the use of a large panoply of tools.