Serge Poliakoff: The Dream of Forms

Serge Poliakoff, Composition abstraite, 1950, 51 x 38 inches (courtesy of Archiv
Serge Poliakoff, Composition abstraite, 1950, 51 x 38 inches (courtesy of Archives Serge Poliakoff, © ADAGP)

Gwenaël Kerlidou reviews the recent exhibition Serge Poliakoff: The Dream of Forms at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

Kerlidou writes: "What the show made clear was that Poliakoff, an unequaled colorist, remained at his best in the smaller, denser oil paintings from the fifties, in which the artist’s use of a palette knife maximized the interplay between the under-layers and the impasto, gesture and color. The later, larger canvases from the early sixties painted with a brush seem to dilute the compressed dramatic energy of the smaller troweled paintings. These early paintings often convey a sense of a centered core, of a painting within a painting: interlocked jigsaw puzzle blocks of color pushing against each other, all on the same plane, as in 'Composition abstraite' (1950). One of the leitmotivs running through Poliakoff’s paintings from the fifties to the late sixties, is a centered cross, as in 'Composition abstraite' (1952), a device that helps reinforce a connection to the crucifixion icons in Orthodox churches." Kerliou also considers the impact Russian painters - including Poliakoff, Nicolas de Staël, and Mark Rothko - had on post war painting both in Paris and New York.