The Geometry of Constraints (1981)

For twenty years, I believed that my paintings were planes and that my lines were straight. Ideal straight lines and planes, such as were described to me by my seventh-grade geometry textbook.

At the time, with commendable good faith, I sought in my paintings: to obtain the ideal planar surface by avoiding all relief and all material; to make my planes infinite, which is to say to push them to overrun the walls by removing that which had been created precisely for the purpose of separating them: frames or moldings and slanted presentations, detached from walls.

On the other hand, my lines seemed to me to conform more or less to the standards of my geometry textbook: rectilinear, uniform, and (almost) infinite.

I had closed my eyes to the thickness of my paintings and of my lines; to my infinite all-over paintings that stopped at the edge of my little squares; to the contradiction between my planar geometry problems and their presentation, their integration into the spatial geometry of museums or galleries; to the way my ideal-plane-paintings were affixed to the wall with rods, nails, and string (which can always be seen, or at least intuited).

For some years now, I have opened those eyes somewhat and found that between geometry and myself there are a number of things (the paint, the support, the wall, etc.) that I no longer wish to ignore.

I therefore decided, five or six years ago, to stop cheating, to stop trying to hide these inevitable constraints.

So I returned to my “geometric approximations” (still in the seventh-grade sense), taking as a principle that I would not hide the constraints, but rather make them the principal subject of the work.

Thus I may give my most recent works a general title: Constraints of Geometric Painting and Geometry of Constraints.

I doubt these works will be pleasing to (serious) lovers of geometry or painting, but I hope they will be pleasing to (unserious) lovers of constraints.

Translated by Daniel Levin Becker. © Dia Art Foundation. English translation originally published in Béatrice Gross with Stephen Hoban, eds., François Morellet (New York: Dia Art Foundation, 2019), p. 204. Originally published as “La géométrie des contraintes,” in Média/81 (Neuchâtel, Switzerland: Galerie Média, 1982), n.p.