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Olivier Mosset

Sans titre, 1974
acrylic on canvas
200.0 x 210.0 cm
Having reproduced some two hundred times a black circle on a white background, done unfailingly in a square format, Olivier Mosset concluded that the motif no longer served his aims of shaking up and overturning notions of originality and uniqueness traditionally linked with the work of art. Indeed the circle, repeated from canvas to canvas, became a logo, the signature that had inspired such opposition, inevitably referring – beyond its visible reality – to the presence of the painter. Yet for Mosset, nothing must exist beyond the visible in painting. He therefore abandoned his black rings, which had become the obvious symbols of the stamp he was leaving on art, and, to break with the logic of the distinctive sign, appropriated the motif of another painter.

In 1972 Mosset’s paintings began featuring the vertical stripes associated with the artist Daniel Buren, his fellow traveller from their years together in the B.M.P.T. group. Buren was not especially happy with this “borrowing”, but unlike Buren, Mosset chose pale colours like grey and pastel green and was in the habit of painting all his canvases himself, whereas Buren used already printed awning canvas as his support. Mosset has wavered in this way between an obvious and perfectly recognisable reuse of a known motif and introducing slight differences with respect to Buren’s practice, underscoring his appropriationist gesture and thus asserting that painting doesn’t fall under the province of any particular painter. In addition Mosset has been reusing a double motif, i.e., the canvas used in awnings (anonymous framework and pure visual identification) and the vocabulary of another artist. He thus indefinitely puts off the question of the artist as author of his or her works by becoming the artisan of a painting that he reproduces and no longer the creator who imagined it: “…what interested me in this work was attaining a greater ‘platitude’, reducing even more the content/form dichotomy, and escaping a little bit more from under the burden of the sign.”
Olivier Mosset, Sans titre, 1974