A Retrospective (Part II)
Jean Miotte, (b. 1926) came of artistic age in the decade after World War II when non-figurative gestural abstraction was emerging on both sides of the Atlantic as the contemporary artistic language. The term “L’Art Informel”, was coined by the French critic, Michel Tapié to connote “without form”. The negation of traditional form, a radical break from established notions of order and composition, was particularly suited to a cultural environment born out of the circumstances of postwar Europe where abuse of morals and fascist ideology had led to such horror and destruction.
While Informel is often regarded as the European equivalent of Abstract Expressionism, it is distinguished from its American counterpart by a loss of faith in progress and the collective possibilities of an avant garde. Rather, the artists who came to be grouped as Informel – Jean Miotte, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Emil Schumacher and Kazuo Shiraga, among others – claimed an individual freedom embodied in the spontaneity of the gestural, abstract language to create a bridge between cultures, to break beyond national barriers of geography or expression to form a truly international language.
The power and transcultural appeal of this painting was soon seen in its international reception. Miotte was invited to exhibit throughout Europe, America, the Near and Far East long before the concept of globalization was current in artistic terms. But whereas globalization tends toward cultural uniformity, Miotte’s work fostered individual dialogue within each culture.
While Miotte’s work remains committed to the Utopian aspects of gestural abstraction, he has continued to grow, fighting the repetition of a signature style, constantly pushing the boundaries and possibilities of the line, the gesture and the liquidity of paint.
Jean Miotte has exhibited regularly since 1952. He first arrived in New York in 1961 with a Ford Foundation cultural exchange grant, and after a period of work and travel throughout the U.S. he had his first New York one-man show in 1962 at Alexander Iolas. Later his work was exhibited by the Martha Jackson and Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer galleries.
Miotte describes abstract painting as “a voyage through the 20th century”—revealing at once an experience of alienation and yet breaking through barriers of nationalism to create a wholly international language. Miotte is represented in the collections of the Guggenheim Museum, MoMA, and numerous other major museums in the U.S., Europe and Asia. In 1980 he was the first Western painter invited to exhibit in post-Mao Bejing.
The Chelsea Art Museum is the home of the Miotte Foundation, dedicated to archiving and conserving the oeuvre of Jean Miotte and providing new scholarship and research on L’Informel. Miotte’s extensive collected works are preserved as a legacy for New York, where he has had a studio in SoHo since 1978.