Modern Art Monday Presents: François Morellet, “Random Distribution of 40,000 Squares…

Random Distribution of 40000 Squares
All Photos By Gail

French artist François Morellet (b. 1926) began making abstract work in the 1950s. Together with Sérgio Camargo, Jesús Rafael Soto, and Julio Le Parc, Morellet founded the Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel (Visual art research group), which experimented with collective authorship and with art based on kinetic and optical experiments. In their application of science and technology, the group created new types of optical experience. Morellet based his compositions on the rules of geometry and mathematical progressions, but also allowed chance operations to enter into the decisionmaking process. Created in 1960, Random Distribution of 44,000 Squares Using the Odd and Even Numbers of a Telephone Directory is an oil painting on canvas. The artist describes this work as follows:

With Random Distribution, the purpose of my system was to cause a reaction between two colours of equal intensity. I drew horizontal and vertical lines to make 40,000 squares. Then my wife or my sons would read out the numbers from the phone book (except the first repetitive digits), and I would mark each square for an even number while leaving the odd ones blank. The crossed squares (even numbers) were painted blue and the blank ones (odd numbers)  red. For the 1963 Paris Biennale I made a 3-D version of it that was shown among the Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel installations (and re-created it again on different occasions). I wanted to create a dazzling fight between two colours that shared the same luminosity. This balance of colour intensity was hard to adjust because daylight enhances the blue and artificial light boosts the red. I wanted the visitors to have a disturbing experience when they walked into this room – to almost hurt their eyes with the pulsating, flickering balance of two colours. I like that kind of aggression.

Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

Random Distribution of 40,000 Squares Detail
Painting Detail in Which the Blue Color Appears to be Gray.

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