An exhibition celebrating the use of grey paint doesn’t sound like the most spectacular of prospects; the pigeon amongst the peacocks of the gallery world if you will. But NYC gallerists Luxembourg & Dayan have demonstrated how limitation can be the mother of invention with the compact but compelling Grisaille, which inaugurates their new London space in Mayfair.
Without colour dominating the works, other ideas can come to the fore, like form, texture, surface, shape and contrast as well as the spectrum between figuration and abstraction. Curator Alison Gingeras has asserted her wish to defy Delacroix’s statement that “the enemy of all painting is grey.” Instead, she sees the reductive qualities of the grisaille palette as a launch pad into a world of formal and conceptual possibilities.
That makes things more intriguing even before we get to the list of names on show here, the likes of Gerhard Richter, the workshop of Dürer, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Rob Pruitt, and Cy Twombly.
It’s a scholarly selection and hung in such a way as to offer views that take in a number of works at one time – viewers can compare the grid-like Parisian rooftops and plumes of smoke in Léger’s Les Fumées sur les Toits; the IKEA print of New York which Pruit has overpainted in thick strips of oils; and Richter’s loosely painted aerial view of a bombed cityscape, Stadtbild.
A pair of altarpiece wing panels from the workshop of Dürer and Picasso’s Nu Debout et femme assise are back to back on one wall; two somber depictions of the figure that are united in colour scheme diverge in terms of how they represent the human form.
It’s not only painting on offer here, pencil shavings, latex and dirt all add to the mix. There’s also another branch of Grisaille opening in New York in November, with an even more extensive roster of names adding to this homage to monochrome. This is one grey area that’s definitely worth exploring.
-- Laura Bushell
Images Courtesy Luxembourg & Dayan
Images: Pablo Picasso, Nu debout et femme assise, 1939, Oil on canvas, 16 1/8 x 12 7/8 inches, Courtesy of ARS; Frank Stella, Slieve More, 1964, Metallic powder in polymer emulsion. 59 7/8 x 34 2/3 x 1 1/6 inches. Photo Adam Reich, Private Collection; Rudolph Stingel, Untitled, 2011, Oil on canvas, 16 x 13 inches, courtesy the artist.