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Robert Ryman
The act of looking

6 March—1 July 2024
Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris, France

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The Musée de l’Orangerie is devoting an exhibition to the American artist Robert Ryman (1930-2019). Named « Le regard en acte » (The act of looking), this first large-scale presentation of the painter’s work on in a French public institution since 1981 confirms the artist’s historical importance five years after his death. Too often equated with the American minimalist movement (with which it usually dialogues on museum walls), today, Ryman’s unique approach demands to be viewed for itself and by itself.

The Musée de l’Orangerie, which harbors Claude Monet’s ultimate masterpiece, the Nymphéas, is a venue well suited to this reinterpretation. Ryman, who rejected the notion of influence and the idea of exhibiting in dialogue with another artist, nonetheless has his place in the history of painting, by calling each of its aspects and fundamentals into question. Like Monet before him, he focused, almost obsessively, on his medium’s specificities, examining notions of surface, the work’s limit, the space into which it is incorporated, the light it plays with, and the duration in which it is deployed.

It is around these simple notions – surface, limit, space, light and duration — that the exhibition is organized. All basic elements of painting whose potentialities Ryman exhausted, so as to better make them reveal themselves to each other. It is due to the way the painter sees it, his eye in constant action, that painting, reduced to its essentials, takes on its full meaning. Hence, through this exhibition, we hope to address a fundamental issue in Ryman’s approach: showing painting in its simple purity, revealing it thanks to the light and space in which it is integrated, all just as necessary as its physical components (medium, support, attachment, etc.).