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“Jean Dubuffet: The Last Two Years,” installation view, 2012, The Pace Gallery, New York; photo by G. R. Christmas
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Jean Dubuffet

by Donald Kuspit

For one year, from February 1983 to February 1984, Jean Dubuffet (1901-85) painted nothing but what he called Mires (Test Patterns). He then followed them, for the rest of 1984, with a series he called Non-Lieux (No-Grounds). Works from both series are on display at the Pace Gallery, suggesting their affinity. Boldly gestural, both have a swashbuckling, free-form look, although the Mires’ gestures sometimes seem to form faces and figures, resembling children’s drawings, and sometimes loosely align in a grid, while the Non-Lieux works seem more chaotically “instinctive,” and also anguished. They seem more from the “dark side,” as their black areas suggest, however overrun by red, white and blue streaks, quixotically interlocking in an unstable pattern, while the more tightly constructed Mires, with their luminous red, white and blue, seem lyrical in comparison.


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