WEEKLY ART COLUMN

WALTER LEBLANC

Torsions Mobilo-Statique, 1963

Polyvinyl on board in artist's frame

130 x 127 cm

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Walter Leblanc was born in Antwerp on the 26 December 1932.

 

From 1949 to 1954, he studied at the Academy, under Antoon Marstboom, whose education he appreciated enormously, and under René De Coninck for a printmaking course. Concurrently with his studies, he took evening classes at the School of Decorative Arts under Roger Avermaete.

In 1958 he became a founding member of the group G58, whose first exhibition was held at Kasteel Middelheim. The group brought together young artists representing different trends protesting against the fact that not a single young Belgian artist was represented at the exhibition "50 Ans d'art moderne", organised as part of the Brussels World's Fair (Expo 58).

For Leblanc, 1959 marks the affirmation of his use of "torsion" as the principal creative element in his work. In 1960 he produced, helped by his brother, a definitive version of his "twisting machine", which enabled the production of very precise metallic torsions. That same year he participated in the groundbreaking exhibition "Monochrome Malerei" in Leverkusen.

After a first extensive exhibition in 1961 at the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels, the following year, Leblanc curated the exhibition "Anti-peinture" at Hessenhuis, together with Jan Gloudemans, Francis Lauwers and Filip Tas.

A typical expression of the artist technique is: surfaces or sculptures whose rhythm results from this twisting of the material, in regular progressions that seem to foreshadow a visual or minimalist approach, yet reject the coldness of such compositions, continually seeking an active connection to the space around them.

Leblanc actively participated in the two movements, ZERO and Nouvelle tendance, and took part in major international exhibitions, such as "The Responsive Eye" (1965), "Weiss auf Weiss" (1966) and "Serielle Formationen" (1967).

In 1964 he produced his first architectural "intégrations". He was the awarded the Young Belgian Art Prize and a couple of years later the Grand Prix Europe de Peinture of Ostend. In 1965, Lucio Fontana's atelier in Milan, opened the first official exhibition of the ZERO group in Italy, featuring works by its leading exponents, including Leblanc.

In 1967 he was a prizewinner at the V Biennale de Paris, and in 1969 he won the Prix Eugène Baie de Peinture.

In 1970, three months before the 35th Venice Biennale opening, Leblanc was informed that he had been selected as one of the Belgian representatives.

From 1981 onwards Leblanc—who always dreamed of creating monumental pieces—worked on the mural for the Simonis metro station in Brussels, which was completed after he passed away in 1986.

On 14 January 1986, he was on his way to finalise the room dedicated to him at the exhibition Rapports Plan-Espace at the Museum of Modern Art in Brussels, Walter Leblanc died in a car accident.

Leblanc has also recently been included in major ZERO group retrospectives such as ZERO: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s-60s at Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2014, Zero: The international art movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin and Zero: Let us Explore the Stars, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam in 2015.