Epanouissement, November 11, 1984
acrylic on canvas-backed paper, 39-1/2" x 52-3/4.”
Mire G 111 (Kowloon), August 4, 1983
acrylic on canvas, 79" x 78-3/4". Pizzuti Collection.
All artwork © Jean Dubuffet 2011/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ADAGP, Paris.
Source: Pace Gallery / theartwolf.com
During the final two years of Jean Dubuffet’s life, his canvases exploded with raw emotion. The artist’s mental landscapes described a non-place, made perceptible by fluid intertwining lines and radiant colors that seem drawn from an alternate reality. “To see the last works,” Murphy writes, “is to see all of Dubuffet, his theories contracted into an energetic force comprised of wild, fluid brushstrokes that appear as if they could escape from the confines of any boundaries imposed upon them.” After twelve years of working on his Hourloupe cycle (the longest series of his career) with a palette of primarily red, blue, and black, contained by thick black outlines, in 1983 Dubuffet unleashed an extended color palette across the canvas, removing the borders and a representational reference point.
From February 1983 to February 1984, Dubuffet painted the Mires series exclusively. These paintings were, as Murphy explains, “the alarm clock that wakes us from dreaming in the language of the Hourloupes,” so that “we are, again, reset.” The “Test Patterns,” as the artist referred to the paintings, were to evoke in viewers a visceral reaction that might rid the mind of the teachings of culture and tradition so as to see them with a naked eye. The Kowloons—a title which references the city in Hong Kong that Dubuffet imagined but never travelled to—are vibrant paintings of blue and red on bright yellow ground. The Boléros, limited to a palette of blue, red, and white, vibrate with the energy of the Spanish and Cuban dance they describe.
About the artist
Jean Dubuffet (1901–1985) was one of the most enigmatic painters of the twentieth century. A student of the Académie Julian in Paris, he left school in 1918 to pursue an independent form of art education. Like many of his generation in Europe in the wake of World War II, Dubuffet sought artistic authenticity outside of tradition, in the margins of society. He looked to the art of prisoners, psychics, the uneducated, and the insane to liberate his own creativity and coined the term “Art Brut,” a predecessor to outsider art of the late 1940s.