Carlos Bunga versus Olivier Mosset

mosset painted wall
Olivier Mosset – painted wall 2015

Exciting! Christopher Grimes has convened two humongous artists of his roster to exhibit their idea of painting. It was “Carlos Bunga & Olivier Mosset” from January 17 through March 14, 2015, at his gallery in Santa Monica, California

Olivier MOSSET

I read somewhere about Olivier Mosset’s work this wonderful sentence by late Jean Baudrillard “…(Olivier’s work is) like a witticism, in its nonsensical and elliptical form, ridiculing all the heavy armature of language and communication.” This is so true. Olivier Mosset is that “MONUMENT” who broke so many barriers, so many codes. At the age of 71, the Swiss artist who leaves in Tucson, Arizona, is so big that he could almost do anything and the Art market would name it “great and genius”.

However, he remains faithful and never stopped digging about what he and his group of painters, B.M.P.T., have developed during the mid-1960s (a Paris-based group consisting of Daniel Buren, Mosset, Michel Parmentier, and Niele Toroni). This was to call into question the painter’s gesture and signature by sharing styles and dissolving authorship to reach a “degree zero” of painting” with “radical procedures of deskilling”.

Mosset went so far into that question that he can be compared with another “Monument” Marcel Duchamp who also broke so many codes in visual arts and performances. Our vision of modern art would change forever after Marcel Duchamp, same with Mosset in the field of painting.

Carlos BUNGA

Portuguese artist Carlos Bunga is 39 -almost half of Mosset’s age. He doesn’t belong to any group. But he has developed a body of work strong enough to let us say that he is also a Monument. He broke the rules of painting by creating a space he likes to call “in between”. His partial walls made with painted cardboard slip on existing walls he chose in order to change their cold utilitarian aspect. The transformation is impressive. His walls take an organic character and become a living and breathing flesh that suffers from its wounds.

Two Monuments though but radically different in their approach

The exhibition as well as the conversation between the two artists allowed identifying all the points of divergence of these two great artists.

Mosset, a cold piece, independent from its context

Olivier Mosset’s proposal at Christopher Grimes was to install in the gallery, not a monochrome paint with polyurethane but a wall painted with two flat colors, yellow and blue. It was not a new piece: the pattern and the colors come directly from an old canvas found by chance during a journey in the Chiapas in Mexico. Since then Mosset who considers that piece like obvious or imposed to him has shown it in different places: in a retrospective in Serignan, France, from March through June 2013, and then he shown it at Koenig & Clinton, New York, in December 2013, for the exhibition “House of Vettii”

At first it was surprising to find a piece already known through other exhibitions. As it was not a question of laziness from Olivier Mosset it forced you to think about it. And rapidly the strength of the piece spoke by itself. You understand it all. You understood that that piece will stay forever independent from the context. Whatever the context, Serignan, New York or Santa Monica, that piece will remain the same, straight, confident like saying “it is what it is”

Bunga, warm pieces integrated into the context

Bunga for that show had two different goals. In the first room, where was the main piece of Mosset, he paid an homage to him. He installed on one wall a series of squares made of cardboard and colored in warm colors, red and gold. He wanted to create what he called “windows” to echo Olivier Mosset’s monochrome. The base of each window was like implemented into the wall as if wall and window belonged to each other. However, the installation there was very humble; a discrete presence showing that Bunga didn’t want to bother El Maestro.

In the other room, Bunga was alone and made “a Bunga piece”: Large with no restriction. With Bunga every installation is the result of a sort of conversation with the place he has to make it. Obviously there again he took care of the context in order to amplify the strength of the installation. He installed a simple “skin” of cardboard that was placed on the main wall then he painted it in white and cut all around leaving an edge. And the magic happened again here: the edge was like suffering with its untreated wounds along its length. It was a wonderful piece, pure like a virgin after her honeymoon.

from left: Carlos Bunga, Mark Lee and Olivier Mosset


from left: Carlos Bunga, Mark Lee and Olivier Mosset


During the conversation between the artists, led by Mark Lee -of Johnston MarkLee Architecture- their differences erupted through a completely different attitude. One, Bunga was talkative and expansive and the other Olivier Mosset was shy and almost absent. Even their vision of the desert of Arizona they both love was different. When Bunga explained the organic and physical relation with the desert recharged and regenerated him, we understood from Olivier Mosset that the desert rid of all the dross from the outside which helps to produce such minimalism and purity.

Indeed the exhibition and the conversation showed two artists with two different approaches but they served one same objective: to move the lines of visual art very far. And they did. BCh

Carlos Bunga installation 2015


Carlos Bunga Installation 2015 – detail –

Carlos Bunga & Olivier Mosset
at Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica, CA – January 17 – March 14, 2015


Olivier Mosset and
Christopher Grimes