Rene Allain b. 1951

Since the mid-1980s, René Pierre Allain has “constructed” paintings with a technique that transforms metal surfaces using chemicals, acids, and the flame from a torch. Through the use of non-traditional materials on an atypical surface (with almost no pigment involved), the artist’s work could be dubbed “steel painting.”

In an Art in America review (2000), Tom McDonough described Allain’s work as “hybrid art works in the tradition of Donald Judd’s ‘specific objects.” Adding: “the artist puts contradictory forces into play: simplicity and complication, the weight of steel and the atmospheric surface quality, the sculptural and the painterly.” Since then, Allain’s work has evolved, adding layers of shadow, complexity, and movement, following the trajectory of his artistic exhibition history.


Allain studied communications in Montreal and worked as a professional photographer before obtaining his Bachelor Degree in Visual Arts in Ottawa. He moved to New York in 1984 and pursued studies in fine arts—specifically sculpture—receiving a MFA from Hunter College. As his interest in issues of planes and painting grew, Allain’s three-dimensional work gradually moved from the floor to the wall. Since the mid ’80s, his constructed paintings have been exhibited internationally. Allain’s mostly abstract and geometric works take their inspiration from architecture, heraldry, insignia, and from disruptive rhythmic patterns in nature. His collection of African masks also inspires him to abstraction. The artist works with various materials—including steel, pigmented plaster, linen, acrylic, burlap, glue, clear sealant, and wax.


Allain’s work is included in collections at the Brooklyn Museum, the Canada Council for the Arts, the London Regional Art and Historical Museum, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, and the Sol LeWitt Collection, among others. He now divides time between a studio in Brooklyn and teaching design in a workshop called “Constructed Painting” at the School of Visual Arts in New York.