Born in 1926 in Cholet, France, François Morellet began painting at the age of fourteen, going on to study literature in Paris. Upon completion of his studies in 1948, he returned to Cholet to run the family-owned toy factory, Morellet-Guérineau, which he continued to oversee until 1975. Whilst the responsibility was a full-time occupation - Morellet described himself as a “Sunday painter” for the first 25 years of his career - it not only provided financial security and freedom from the pressures of the art market, but exposed Morellet to industrial materials and production techniques that would prove a major source of inspiration in his work.
In 1950, Morellet travelled to Brazil where he encountered Concrete Art and met one of the movement’s key protagonists, Swiss artist Max Bill. This meeting, coupled with a revelatory visit of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, in 1952, solidified Morellet’s interest in geometric abstraction, and inspired a form of systematic, rule-based art-making that formed the basis of his practice for the rest of his career. In 1960, Morellet founded the Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel (GRAV) with fellow artists Joël Stein, Julio Le Parc, Jean-Pierre Yvaral, Francisco Sobrino, and Horacio Garcia Rossi. The group championed what Morellet coined “programmed experimental painting”, exploring the possibilities of Kinetic art and multi-sensory installation, whilst challenging the romantic notion of the artist genius.
Following the disbandment of GRAV in 1968, Morellet’s practice became increasingly architectural, expanding into large steel structures and dense compositions constructed from neon tubes, an industrial material he had first introduced into his practice in 1963. Despite his deliberately pared-down artistic vocabulary, by the end of his career Morellet’s output encompassed oil, acrylic, screenprinting, metal and neon sculpture.
Morellet’s work features in numerous major international collections, including: Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; Dia Art Foundation, New York; Los Angeles Museum of Art; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Seoul Museum of Art, South Korea; the Tate Collection, London; Tel Aviv Museum; the Kunsthaus Zurich; and the Nationalgalerie Berlin.
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