It’s a cocky painting, Molinari thumbing his nose at his Automatiste seniors even as, in the mid-1950s, they were finally gaining public acceptance. Molinari rarely suffered from self-doubt, at least in public, and Untitled is accordingly brash and outspoken. It is constructed as a patchwork of fleshy slabs of paint brusquely applied with the palette knife and laid down side by side with no concern for stylistic finesses. Paint sits unequivocally on top of the canvas, like real stuff, and colour is delivered pure and saturated. How startling the painting must have looked to its first audiences conditioned, as they were, to the muted tonalities that otherwise dominated contemporary gallery walls.
Untitled reflects Molinari’s increasing disenchantment with the mainstays of Automatisme, not only with the latter’s subdued palette, but also with its ongoing commitment to the evocative dreamspaces that it had inherited from Surrealism. It is especially this that Molinari decried in his polemical article, "L’Espace tachiste ou Situation de l’automatisme," published next year in 1956. Here Molinari made clear that he was well aware of the new developments in New York, and, in effect, proclaimed the international scope of his own artistic ambitions by inserting himself into a line of succession that lead from Cézanne and Mondrian and onwards to Pollock. These were the artists who taught him that the principal issue at stake for advanced painting was to redefine pictorial space. To keep painting alive and progressive, the goal was to destroy the last traces of spatial illusion and to unequivocally articulate what Molinari called the “dynamic plane,” referring to a painting’s flat canvas or panel support. Untitled looks as fresh and upfront as if it were executed yesterday instead of some sixty years ago.
Roald Nasgaard, O.C.
Chief curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario from 1978 to 1993