Encapsulating Daniel Buren’s visual research into the very nature of art, Peinture acrylique blanche sur tissu rayé blanc et rouge presents the viewer with an early example of the artist’s trademark vertical stripes. White and red stripes alternately cover the vast canvas with great precision, resulting in a work with a cool, minimalist aesthetic and palpable presence. Stripped of all figurative and expressive content, this work perfectly exemplifies Buren’s radical form of Conceptual Art that sought a new zero degree of painting. As member of the Paris-based group BMPT, Buren selected the single reductive pattern of 8.7cm-wide, alternating coloured and white vertical bands as a strategic ploy to free paintings from its traditional confinements. One of the first proponents of post-modern ‘institutional critique’, Buren aimed at exposing the politics and power mechanisms embedded within the very context art is presented. Executed in 1971, Peinture acrylique blanche sur tissu rayé blanc et rouge was created the same year as his notorious participation at the Guggenheim’s group exhibition ‘The Sixth Guggenheim International’ with his seminal installation Peinture-Sculpture. Other works from this pivotal period from Buren’s oeuvre are included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam or the Tate, London.
Buren has explored the potential of his so-called ‘visual tool’ in various site-specific interventions in public and institutional spaces throughout over five decades of conceptual art making. ‘I kept stripes because it was a sign, very easy to see and to play [with],’ Buren has explained, ‘I was certainly not thinking I would keep that for so long, but little by little, I was still working with it 50 years later. I cannot say it is the same, but I use it and it’s a reason I invented a term, which I call ‘visual tool.’ It’s not only something you can recognize; it’s also something I can use to change an environment’ (D. Buren, E. McDermott, ‘Stripes across the Decades’, Interview Magazine, March 2015, http:/www.interviewmagazine.com/art/daniel-buren-the-armory-show-2015#_). Though minimalist in their aesthetic, Buren’s interventions result in objects that oppose to the idea of Minimalist autonomous, non-referential works of art, which Donald Judd most famously propagated his seminal 1965 essay ‘Specific Objects’. ‘My visual tool…changes meaning in each intervention,’ Buren explained with tongue-in-cheek reference to Judd’s essay, ‘it is an ‘object’ without any autonomy. …A neutral sign allows reading, rereading, and connecting. It contradicts or emphasizes its surroundings. It would be a mistake to believe that it neutralizes its surroundings’ (D. Buren, quoted in ‘Conversation between Daniel Buren and Pierre Huyghe, Daniel Buren New Situated Works, exh. cat., Lisson Gallery, London, 2007, unpaged). As such, Buren’s works are self-reflexive interrogations of place and space. The stripes subtly transform the space they inhabit, rendering the familiar unfamiliar and thereby challenging the supposed neutrality of the white cube. Prompting to look beyond the work of art itself, Peinture acrylique blanche sur tissu rayé blanc et rouge thereby invites the viewer to critically consider the social and physical environment in which an artwork is created, presented and theorized.