'Painter of black' exhibition opens in New York

Peinture 195 x 130 cm, 20 novembre 1956, de Pierre Soulages, exposée à New York à la galerie Lévy Gorvy (AFP Photo/Thomas URBAIN)

New York (AFP) - An exhibition of French artist Pierre Soulages opened in New York on Thursday just months before his work will be showcased in the Louvre to celebrate his 100th birthday.

Twenty pieces of art, mostly recent works but also several masterpieces from Soulages's eight-decade career, are on view at the Levy Gorvy in Manhattan until October 26.

The oldest is from 1954 and the "painter of black" -- still prolific at the age of 99 -- made two pieces, which were completed last spring, specifically for the show.

The works are an extension of his "Outrenoir" (Beyond Black) style, which Soulages developed in the late 1970s when he took the radical decision to paint almost entirely in black.

Soulages, who was called "the world's greatest living artist" by former French president Francois Hollande, plays with light by painting in thick black lines.

"For me it's incredible because I don't know an artist who reinvents himself (like that) again and again. I never feel a repetition in the work of Soulages", gallery co-founder Dominique Levy told AFP.

Most of the paintings come from private collections or are on loan from museums in the United States.

Soulages' star rose shortly after World War II and he is venerated in France and much of Europe as the Rothko of black -- the "master of noir" -- even if his fame has faded in the English-speaking world.

The Louvre in Paris will host a massive retrospective of Soulages, who is now based in Sete on the Mediterranean coast, in December.

None of the paintings featured in the New York exhibition will be on display in the retrospective.