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Olivier Mosset

Sans titre, 1980
acrylic on canvas
61.0 x 61.0 cm
Monochrome offers the possibility of doing a painting without composition, motif, half-tones or line, a smooth painting that is independent of its creator, that offers only its colour and materiality. Thus, after many years of critical research on the practice of painting, monochrome naturally entered Olivier Mosset’s work around the time he settled in the United States and Neo-Expressionism was sweeping through the galleries.

In 1977 – and until around 1985 – he appropriated what he calls the monochrome painting-object, whose tradition goes back to the first avant-garde movements of the 20th century. It appeared to him to be the solution that best matched his quest for an autonomy for painting. Using colour as a pure perceptual given became the sole direction of his work, and his pictures proclaim together that painting is not a spectacle but rather a fact, i.e., the application of a colour to a surface. Mosset saw to it that all the parameters of his monochromes (dimensions, format, tone) varied from canvas to canvas to avoid producing pictures in series that might manifest the organising of a collection.

One of his paintings, however, stands out more than the others curiously enough. The yellow canvas of 1979 bears the marks of a singular addition. The work, acquired by a New York collector, is the result of a spontaneous and unexpected collaboration between Mosset and Andy Warhol, who found themselves together in the collector’s home in 1985. Following their host’s encouragement to do a project in common, Warhol, known for capitalising on his fame by compulsively signing works by others, suddenly stood up and added his signature to the lower corner of the canvas. Thanks to this irreverent, iconoclastic gesture, flouting the sovereignty of the artist and the status of the artwork’s originality, the very essence of the canvas has been modified. Continuing Mosset’s questioning of the signature and anonymity, which he has been carrying out since the start of his career, this usurpation by Andy Warhol brings the Swiss artist back to his own appropriationist gestures.
Olivier Mosset, Sans titre, 1980