Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 2

Arman and his Objects

Ever since 1912, when Picasso pasted a piece of paper representing chair caning onto one of his paintings, artists have been using found objects in their work. Deployed to a variety of ends, the introduction of such objects in works of art is always, in some way, a return to the real: an affirmation of the quiddity through which the familiar reveals itself as strange. In the 1960s, Arman was at the forefront of Nouveau Realisme, the French equivalent of Pop Art: both movements focus on the lavish triumph of the found object, used or new, garbage or treasure. Indeed, frequently it was garbage used as treasure: the detritus left after the quick consumption of objects becomes the object of study and parody. Along with artists such as Yves Klein, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle, Arman's realism corporeal, performative, robust and sometimes violent served as a material witness of his age. This is a large and important exhibition: almost seventy works, ranging from 1959 through to 1997 (although most of the works, in fact date to the 1960s). Arman's primary mode of intervention is the collection and display of objects, based on the Enlightenment principle of similarity, of like with like: screws with screws, plugs with plugs. This rationalist kind of making a taxonomy of the banal is usually subjected to a form of aestheticisation that, paradoxically, always alludes to the most traditional forms of painting and sculpture. The organisation of sports shoes in a grid is peculiarly like a modernist painting; the piling up of Renault bonnets is similarly evocative of early modernist sculptural essays in abstraction. This form of playing with art historical conceits is often purposefully manipulated. We see small round containers of paint set in resin serving as a homage to the spotted paintings of Seurat. Malevich, Jim Dine, Yves Klein and Daniel Spoerri are individually named. Picasso is frequently implicit in the transformation of objects from their own familiar identity to new configurations, and also in the broken cellos and violins, whose dismantling seems like an ironic, if decorative take on early Cubist still lives. L'Affaire du courrier of 1961 contains piles of correspondence addressed to the art critic Pierre Restany, an important mouthpiece of the French new realists.

These art historical jokes point to all that is both strongest and weakest in Arman's work. Weakest is a delight in the facile and trite, of which his contemporary Yves Klein could never be accused. This is, unfortunately, too often the case when the object has been submitted to an act of destruction that, rather than evoking violence, becomes decorative (for instance the burnt chair and piano). An inclination towards illustration is reinforced by the reductive or redundant titles of some of the works: Birth Control for a collection of dolls in a suitcase; Musketeers for an assemblage of swords, and most predictably, To Lourdes for the collection of crutches. Armans work is strongest when he overrides this leaning towards the decorative and literal with a strong sense of abstraction. Here is when we see his humour and irony mixed with a sense of visual design and an intuitive and more complex grasp of the evocative potential of objects. The collections of Dustbins plays on our voyeurism, on the drives towards seduction or repulsion... La Chute des Cours (The Fall of Shopping), with its huge pile of supermarket trolleys, and Spinal Cord an arc of interlinked chairs are brilliant metaphors of transformation.

Ruth Rosengarten Viso, 5 November 1998 Exhibition of Armans work, Cultugest, Lisbon