SCULPTURE BETWEEN THE WARS
Ready-mades are certainly extreme demonstrations of a
principle: that artistic creation depends neither on established rules
nor on manual craftsmanship. The principle itself was an important
discovery, although Duchamp abandoned ready-mades after only a few
years. The Surrealist contribution to sculpture is harder to define. It
was difficult to apply the theory of "pure psychic automatism" to
painting, but still harder to live up to it in sculpture. How indeed
could solid, durable materials be given shape without the sculptor being
consciously aware of the process?
A breakthrough came in
when the Surrealists met in response to a growing crisis
within the movement. They issued a new manifesto drafted by Andre Breton
that called for the "profound and veritable occultation of Surrealism."
It further required "uncovering the strange symbolic life of the most
ordinary and clearly defined objects." The result was a new class of
Surrealist object: neither ready-made nor sculpture, it constituted a
kind of three-dimensional collage assembled not out of aesthetic
concerns using traditional techniques but according to "poetic affinity"
following dictates of the subconscious. Like Object (fig.
(1913-1985), which created a
sensation when it was exhibited in 1936,
many were intended to be repulsive and unsettling in the
extreme, yet proved all the more fascinating for that very reason.
Meret Oppenheim. Object.
1936. Fur-covered cup, saucer, and spoon.
The Museum of Modem Art, New York
Méret Oppenheim (6 October 1913 — 15 November 1985) was a
German-born Swiss, Surrealist artist, and photographer.
Oppenheim was a member of the Surrealist movement of the
1920s along with André Breton, Luis Buñuel, Marcel Duchamp,
Max Ernst, and other writers and visual artists. Besides
creating art objects, Oppenheim also famously appeared as a
model for photographs by Man Ray, most notably a series of
nude shots of her interacting with a printing press.
Méret Oppenheim was born on
October 6, 1913, in Berlin. Oppenheim is named after
Meretlein, a wild child who lives in the woods in the novel
‘’Der Grüne Heinrich’’ (The Green Henry) by Gottfried
Keller. Oppenheim had two siblings, a sister named
Kristin (born 1915) and a brother named Burkhard (born
1919). Her father, a German doctor, was conscripted into the
army at the outbreak of war in 1914. Consequently, Oppenheim
and her mother moved to live with Oppenheim's maternal
grandparents in Delémont, Switzerland. In Switzerland,
Oppenheim was exposed to art and artists from a young age.
Oppenheim was inspired by her aunt, Ruth Wenger, especially
by Wenger's devotion to art and her modern lifestyle.
In 1932, at the age of
eighteen, Oppenheim moved to Paris and sporadically attended
the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. In 1933 she met Hans
Arp and Alberto Giacometti who, after visiting her studio
and seeing her work, invited her to participate in the
Surrealist exhibition in the “Salon des Surindépendants,”
held in Paris between October 27 and November 26. Oppenheim
met André Breton and began to participate in meetings at the
Café de la Place Blanche with the Surrealist circle.
In 1936, Oppenheim had her
first solo exhibition in Basel, Switzerland, at the Galerie
Schulthess. She continued to contribute to Surrealist
exhibitions until 1960. Many of her pieces consisted of
everyday objects arranged as such that they allude to female
sexuality and feminine exploitation by the opposite sex.
Oppenheim’s paintings focused on the same themes. Her
originality and audacity established her as a leading figure
in the Surrealist movement.
Oppenheim's best known
piece is Object (Le Déjeuner en fourrure) (1936). The
sculpture consists of a teacup, saucer and spoon that the
artist covered with fur from a Chinese gazelle. It is
displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The
enormous success of this early work would create later
problems for Oppenheim as an artist, and soon after its
creation she drifted away from the Surrealists. Decades
later, in 1972, she artistically commented on its dominance
of her career by producing a number of "souvenirs" of Le
Déjeuner en fourrure.
In her acceptance speech
upon receiving the Art Award of the City of Basel on January
16, 1975, Oppenheim coined the phrase "Freedom is not given
to you — you have to take it."
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Perhaps the purest form of Surrealist sculpture, however, was created by
Jean (Hans) Arp (1887-1966).
he began to translate his reliefs, which arose from his
experiments with collage, into three-dimensional forms. These evolved a
few years later into the Human Concretion series (fig. 1136), a term that aptly
describes their character. In contrast to Brancusi's
abstractions, which reduce things to their absolute essence, Arp's
biomorphic forms seem to grow organically as they are built up.
Regardless of medium, the concretions are notable tor their perfection.
(They were almost always modeled in clay or plaster, although many were
later carved in marble and wood, or sometimes cast in bronze, by skilled
artisans.) Small wonder they have influenced countless sculptors since
Jean Arp. Human Concretion. 1935.
49.5 x 47.6
The Museum of Modem Art, New York
Jean Arp, also called Hans Arp (born September 16, 1887,
Strassburg, Germany [now Strasbourg, France]—died June 7,
1966, Basel, Switzerland), French sculptor, painter, and
poet who was one of the leaders of the European avant-garde
in the arts during the first half of the 20th century.
First trained as an artist in his native
Strasbourg, he later studied in Weimar, Germany, and at the
Académie Julian in Paris. In 1912 he went to Munich, where,
through his friend Wassily Kandinsky, he became briefly
associated with Der Blaue Reiter. He returned to Paris in
1914 and became acquainted with the artists Modigliani,
Picasso, and Robert Delaunay, as well as with the writer Max
Jacob. During World War I he took refuge in Zürich, where he
became one of the founders of the Dada movement. It was
there that he produced his first painted reliefs. After the
war he lived in Germany until 1924, when he and his wife,
the artist Sophie Taeuber, whom he had married in 1921,
settled near Paris in the town of Meudon. During the 1920s
he was associated with the Surrealists, and in 1930 he was a
member of the Cercle et Carré group. This was also the year
in which he made his first papiers déchirés (“torn papers”).
In 1931 he participated in the Abstraction-Création
movement. During World War II he again went to live in
Zürich, where his wife died in 1943. While in Switzerland he
did his first papiers froissés (“crumpled papers”). After
the war Arp returned to Meudon, where he continued his
experiments with abstract form and colour and wrote poetry.
Arp on Arp: Poems, Essays, Memories by Jean Arp (1972) and
Arp’s Collected French Writings (1974) were edited by Marcel