John Mendelsohn reviews the recent exhibition Simon Hantaï: Blancs at Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York.
Mendelsohn begins: "The Blancs, a series of paintings that Simon Hantaï (1922-2008) created in the early 1970s, have shards of transparent color that are arrayed over expanses of white space. These delicate large-scale works vary in the intensity of their tonalities, but all have a kind of wind-blown unpredictability, so that we are not exactly sure of how the pieces have come to rest in their final configuration. Further deepening the conundrum is the tracery of faceted lines in the surface of the canvas that defines its topography like silent pentimenti. Hantaï made the colored forms by folding and creasing the canvas, and then painting the exposed facets. By using this pliage method he created a kind of matrix, with white as a positive presence out of which emerge the painted areas. They read as fragments, activated tesserae in a field of emptiness."