A self-taught artist, François Morellet began creating abstract work under the influence of Concrete and Constructivist currents of the 1960s. In 1961 he cofounded the Groupe Recherche d’Art Visuelle (GRAV), which was aligned with the international New Tendencies movement. By taking a programmatic approach to art-making, Morellet attempted to eliminate any trace of the subjective hand of the artist in both manner and composition, employing regular, geometric forms and a limited palette. He adopted mathematical formulas, predetermined constraints, and chance procedures as the basis of his work, which he viewed as the results of an experimental scientific method rather than individual creativity or conventional artistic composition. “We are on the eve of a revolution in art which will be just as large as the one in the field of science,” Morellet explained in 1961, “therefore, common sense and the spirit of systematic research need to replace intuition and individualistic expression.”
In 4 Double Grids 0 °, 22.5 °, 67.5 ° (1960–61), Morellet achieves a highly complex abstract composition through a systematic exploration of the grid. The painting belongs to a series for which he created allover patterns by layering and rotating regular grids. The procedure he used for each is denoted in the title, which specifies the angle of rotation. By determining the parameters of each work in advance, Morellet minimizes his own role, allowing the compositions to generate themselves according to an objective mathematical system.
François Morellet produced drawings, paintings, objects, and installations. In 1960 he co-founded GRAV (Groupe de Recherche d'Art Visuel, or Visual Arts Research Group), in Paris, a group of op art and kinetic artists who created works with light, motors, and sculptural materials and encouraged visitor participation. Though Morellet was mostly self-taught, he took some painting lessons from a professional artist. From 1948 to 1975 he led his father’s toy car factory, which allowed him the financial independence to work as an artist, in both Cholet and Paris. In 1950 Morellet turned to abstraction and had his first solo show at the Galérie Creuze in Paris. His paintings, which depict infinite structures of geometric or stylized elements, reflect his application of predefined rules that were also determined by chance. In 1963 he began to use neon tubes that rhythmically switch on and off, which became his favored material for objects and installations. Morellet took part in Documenta, Kassel (1964; 1968; 1977), and in the Venice Biennale (1970), and in 1970 he contributed to the French pavilion at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan. Morellet’s first retrospective was held in 1977 at the National Gallery in Berlin; his last was in 2011 at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.