François Morellet received no formal artistic training. For him, his self-taught status gave him freedom.
His discovery of Mondrian, then Max Bill and concrete art at the start of the 1950s led Morellet to geometry: he based his works on a set of arbitrary rules applied in a deductive manner. These rules were both serious and absurd. With Répartition aléatoire de 40 000 carrés suivant les chiffres pairs et impairs d’un annuaire de téléphone (Random Distribution of 40,000 Squares Following the Even and Odd Numbers of a Telephone Directory, 1961), the title explains the unorthodox method of creating the piece – it is both the result and the demonstration.
A founding member of GRAV (Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel) alongside Julio Le Parc and Jean-Pierre Yvaral among others, Morellet began working with different types of intervention, in the city, and with architecture. During this period he began to use neon, an industrial material.
Composed of simple geometrical elements, his works are constructed according to rigorous plans, often based on a systematic grid, counterbalanced by chance operations, reflecting a sense of playfulness in the artist, who described himself a "rigorous joker".