FRAC Grand Large


CROQUE-COULEUR by José Loureiro

17.02.2024 — 01.09.2024

Frac Grand Large — Hauts-de-France

José Loureiro, Acarien, 2018 © Adagp, Paris, 2024

“Colours communicate with each other using an undecipherable codethat is impervious to even the most powerful algorithm. They are asslippery as an eel and as prickly as a pear. We will never discover a Rosetta Stone for colours.” José Loureiro

The Frac Grand Large invites you to discover the art of Portuguese painter José Loureiro in an exhibition that brings together almost one hundred and twenty works produced over a fifteen-year period including a number of previously unseen series. Born in 1961, José Loureiro discovered painting at the age of sixteen and went on to study at the Lisbon School of Fine Arts. He began exhibiting at the end of the 1980s. An initial, expressive style marked by almost surrealist touches rapidly evolved into a more bare-bones approach. In 1993, his work took on a more abstract character that was grounded in his research into grids. The latter continue to inform his work today as Loureiro explores the mechanics of gesture, questions of scale, the synthesis of movements and the autonomy of colour.

The works on display are not organised in chronological order. The exhibition begins with “La vocation des acariens”, a series from 2017 of which two paintings can be found in the Frac Grand Large collection. Loureiro works with oil on canvas or oil on paper, applying fluid and vivid colours that sometimes create an impression of volume. Black lines freely inspired by insect legs crisscross the surface. The repulsive evocation of this animal that cannot be seen by the naked eye is offset by the carnal nature of these forms. Isolated with the frame of each painting, these dust mites are like the letters of an alphabet, however once the paintings are hung on the wall, the ensemble rhythmically imposes its presence like a musical score. Formed from concentric circles – like the growth rings of a tree or a car’s headlights – the motif of the eye appears for the first time, before giving rise to an independent series in which colour literally ensnares our gaze. 

In 2011, José Loureiro created a monumental work entitled Boson de L., a painting here made up of 138 superimposed horizontal canvases whose different tones correspond to a range of ready-to-use colours. The luminous vibrations of the paint echo the neon-lit industrial architecture, while evoking the slowness and hazards of the manual gesture. Around it, the ‘Narcissus’ series, created in 2023, is presented in its entirety. Seventeen figures greet the visitor as if in a portrait gallery. Yet their faces are barely sketched, and it is their attitudes that characterise them. Some bodies are more acrobatic than others, more androgynous or more grotesque. Entitled Narcissus, are these paintings self-portraits or a satire of the human comedy?

In the adjacent rooms, the exhibition is punctuated by quotations from the artist, and new dialogues are created between works from different periods. The concrete abstraction of paintings made from colour-soaked gauze fabrics and printed in patchwork or monochrome (2023) meets an aesthetic of the grid that has already – with the series “Synapse morte” (2018) – flirted with textiles and their mending. Elsewhere, Créature and Conjoints (2021) respond to the different visual rhythms of the abstract paintings (2008, 2015 and 2017), whose expressiveness, contrasts and disjunctions repress images in order to rediscover painting.

“Une famille comme les autres” is the latest series. It comprises nine group portraits that evoke precise moments and locations from the artist’s life. With titles such as Fête au village, Vertes années and Première tentative de fuite, these paintings in an almost square format endeavour to describe relationships that are often ambiguous. Geometric shapes interfere with the loosely painted, unfinished silhouettes, whereas colourful motifs accentuate the painting’s flatness. The backgrounds are monochrome and somewhat subdued, as if to mark the passing of time. The scenes evoked by the artist are brought into the foreground, sometimes appearing to have been truncated in the manner of snapshots, fragments or clues pointing to the situation. Instead of faces, the protagonists sport a device that is part eye, part camera making them anonymous while returning our own stupefied gaze. In the vein of paintings by the British artist William Hogarth (1697-1764), famous for his moral tales, these paintings with their sometimes violent overtones are a satire of family life and alienation. 

In addition to the exhibition, a screening room provides visitors with an original way of accessing a vast overview of the artist’s work. Each film focuses on one of his past exhibitions by means of a slide show accompanied by a soundtrack of minimalist or concrete music found on the Internet. In this way, Loureiro shares his thoughts about his own exhibitions in an amusing manner using a format that he calls his “entertainments and personal memories of exhibitions.

The Frac would particularly like to thank Lúcia Franco for her precious help throughout. The exhibition is supported by the Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian – Délégation en France and Galerie Florent Maubert, Paris.


Benjamin Mialot, who is the programmer at the 4Ecluses contemporary music venue in Dunkirk,has devised an original playlist in connection with a selection of paintings by José Loureiro.


A cosy listening area has been set up in the rooftop belvedere where it is played on aloop. You can also listen to the playlist on our website!

The exhibition catalogue will be published during the first quarter of 2024. It willconsider the exhibition in greater depth and present a new text by the artist.


17.02.2024 — 01.09.2024


Press kit 2024