Born 1944 in Bern, Switzerland; lives in Tucson, Arizona
For the last four decades, Olivier Mosset has remained committed to questioning painting as a historical object by, somewhat paradoxically, continuing to paint. Through his affiliation with the B.M.P.T., a group of conceptually driven painters formed in Paris in the 1960s, Mosset and his peers—Daniel Buren, Michel Parmentier, and Niele Toroni (their initials reflected in their collective acronym)—sought to democratize art through radical procedures of deskilling. They also deftly deconstructed such modernist shibboleths as the primacy of authorship and the value of originality by signing each other’s works and repeating a specific compositional device across multiple grounds: while Buren became well-known for keeping to stripes, Mosset focused on the circle, which he painted in some two hundred iterations between 1966 and 1974.
Since that time, Mosset has turned to monochrome works on shaped canvases that more or less implicitly comment on circuits of production and exchange (stars standing in for revolutionary aspirations, or dollar signs representing, well, dollar signs). He has also explored other formats and materials of abstract painting involving more traditional oil and acrylic, as well as industrial plastic. Mosset alternately culls forms from the landscape as found abstractions and anchors paintings back to it, site- and architecturally specifically: He drew from the antitank traps dotting Europe’s roadsides for the Toblerones (1994–2007), massive yet ephemeral Minimalism-inspired sculptures produced in ice. His shimmering Golden Shower (2007) transformed the lowered garage door of SculptureCenter in Queens, New York, into an improbably beautiful wash of yellow paint.
Collaboration, too, remains a constant in Mosset’s practice, whether in the form of the Radical Painting Group (with Joseph Marioni and Marcia Hafif ) in the late 1970s or more recent partnerships with Cady Noland, in 2004, and “Indian Larry” Desmedt, a motorcycle mechanic and stunt rider whose flame-licked customized bikes were shown alongside the artist’s paintings in 2007 at Spencer Brownstone Gallery in New York. Mosset’s sweeping red arcs shown there can be read equally as pure geometric shapes, references to Ellsworth Kelly, or giant smiles; adjacent brilliant yellow orbs solicit a comparable latitude of interpretation, leaving one with the suspicion that reflexivity—on the part of the maker and viewer alike—is Mosset’s point. Curator Robert Nickas once described Mosset’s early work as “pictures . . . of painting itself.” This argument seems just as apt now. SUZANNE HUDSON
Olivier Mosset, Untitled, 2007. Polyurethane sprayed on canvas, 48 x 48 in. (121.9 x 121.9 cm). Collection of Stefano Pult