This selection of 36 paintings, collages, reliefs and drawings dating from 1965 to 2007 provided an excellent overview of the work of the 70-year-old French artist Pierre Buraglio. Best known in his native country, Buraglio has shown with Daniel Buren and Olivier Mosset as well as the Supports/Surfaces group. But as this exhibition made clear, Buraglio’s individualistic approach to abstraction and his restless material exploration resist easy art historical categorization.
Buraglio seems to relish quickly executed juxtapositions of jagged colorful shapes and varied textures. Three small works from the ’60s have an off-the-cuff charm and simple beauty, though they are no more than simple arrangements of broad strokes in bright-hued gouache on paper and cardboard. In his collages, the artist sets up compositional rules yet achieves happenstance effects. In Masquage plein (1980), for example, strips of recycled painted masking tape used to block off areas in previous works are arranged as diagonal stripes bifurcating a sheet of clear acrylic into two expanses of mottled red and green. The recycled tape’s craquelure and ragged edges give this work a rough, richly varied patina—not so much “anti-painting” as “leftover painting.” In Masquage vide (1979), Buraglio applies multicolored pieces of masking tape along the periphery of an empty sheet of tracing paper, like a Sam Francis edge painting.
Gauloise bleues (1978), an approximately 8-by-6-foot collage of beat-up unfolded cigarette packs arranged in a grid, reads as a funky yet somehow elegant blue field patterned with uneven white patches of tax stamps torn from packages. Two compellingly homespun works titled Fenêtre (both 1981) are made from cut-down, distressed wooden window frames still holding sections of tinted and mottled glass. Like Richard Tuttle in his similarly quirky assemblages, Buraglio exposes elegant geometric forms that might not otherwise have been apparent in these everyday objects. Several related works from the late ’80s consist of enameled metal Metro signs sliced up into irregular shapes.
In the painted collage Les très riches heures de P.B. (1982), Buraglio arranges strips of thick black tape over two adjoining spreads of newspaper, scribbled over and embellished with colored pencil. Humdrum newsprint has been transformed into a windowlike view, the “scene” one of art-making and ornamented daily life. More recently, Buraglio has applied his blithe spirit to figuration. Included here were a handsome life-size crayon sketch on a Plexiglas door of a male bather taken from Cézanne (2001), several smaller sketches of details from Bourdon paintings (2005) and two rather inscrutable multipanel landscapes (2009). All demonstrate the artist’s relentless need to keep his practice fresh.
Photo: Pierre Buraglio: Les très riches heures de P.B., 1982, colored pencil and ribbons on newspaper, 391⁄4 by 261⁄2 inches; at the Musée Fabre.