French painter dies at 80 –


Claude Rutault, a French artist whose paintings were made according to strict rules, has died at the age of 80. A representative for Perrotin, the Paris gallery that represents him, said he died of illness on Saturday.

“Those who knew him will miss the spite, intelligence, strong personality, generosity and freedom of spirit that is evident in his work,” Perrotin wrote on social media.

Rutault’s paintings bridged the gap between post-war abstraction and the sublime ideas of the Minimalist and Conceptual art movements. His works are reduced abstractions; Many of them are monochrome. They are the result of processes carried out according to strict rules laid down in advance by Rutault.

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Since these rules can effectively be followed by anyone, Rutault claimed he never made his works himself. He also said he had no involvement in the exhibition or sale of these works and had practically retired entirely.

The aim of this unusual way of working was to disrupt traditional notions of painting and its perception. He referred to his instructions as “dé-finition/méthodes” and the space or collector that showed them as “charge taker”.

“My proposal is about going out of context,” he said in 2015 interview in violet. “Away from painting. Go beyond the meaninglessness of the monochrome. For me, hanging pictures outdoors is a spectacle.”

Oval gray painting balanced on the floor in front of a light blue wall.  Next to it is a circular blue painting in the same color as the wall.

Claude Rutault, dé-finition/méthode, “autoportrait en pied”2011
Courtesy of Perrotin

Born in Trois Moutiers, France in 1941, Rutault belonged to a generation of French artists who subjected painting, a sacred medium historically associated with originality, to unusual means of production. Painters like Niele Toroni created repetitive abstractions dictated by precise mathematical systems, while the Supports/Surface movement drew on everyday materials to challenge the medium’s most fundamental elements. However, Rutault often said he feels more connected to the Minimalists working in New York than to these artists.

Rutault’s work was clever in ways that are less obvious than meets the eye. One work required its creator to paint a canvas the same color as the walls of the gallery in which it is set. Another urged his seller to scale the painting’s price up or down according to its size in relation to the sums required to purchase local real estate.

Rutault paintings are difficult to love because of their haughtiness, and this may explain why they have not often been seen outside of France. Before organizing an exhibition of his work in New York in 2014, Perrotin had not had a solo exhibition in New York since 1979, when the PS1 Contemporary Art Center presented his art. Nevertheless, early on he took part in important exhibitions at important French venues such as the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris and the Center Pompidou, as well as the 1977 and 1982 editions of the Documenta in Kassel.

Although his work was highly conceptual, Rutault didn’t think it was devoid of humor.

“You don’t know what’s going to become of my work,” he told artist Allan McCollum in a conversation featured in interview magazine. “You don’t know what color it will be. Don’t know where it appears. There’s an element of playfulness and play, but it’s also very serious in a way.”


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