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Summary of Arman
Arman is most associated with the Nouveau Réalisme (New Realism) movement that emerged in 1960, and which represented France's response to the trend of Pop art that was sweeping Europe and the United States. Arman had first emerged as a lyrical abstract painter, but he soon rejected the style and began making sculpture inspired by the concept of the readymade. Arman's most notable work was preoccupied with the consequences of mass production: his Accumulations often reflected on the identical character of modern objects; his Poubelles, or "trash cans," considered the waste that results when these objects are discarded; and his Coleres, or "rages," expressed an almost irrational rage at objects that, in modern times, threatened to dominate everyday life. At his best, Arman delivered a powerful and chilling rejection of modernization and the culture of mass consumption. Later, he developed an aesthetic based on the act of destruction, his pieces commemorating the obliteration objects in various ways.
- Many of Arman's early sculptures point to the strangeness inherent in the idea of identical, mass produced objects. Gathering these identical objects together, he distracts us from their functional purpose and presents them instead as endlessly repeated forms - forms which seem to have a deeper meaning that, bia the processes of modernization, has been lost to us. In his focus on repetition, Arman's work echoes that of many American Minimalists and Pop artists of the same period.
- Arman was important in pioneering the European return to Marcel Duchamp's idea of the readymade (and to Assemblage). Arman's fascination with it points to his belief that contemporary sculpture had to confront the commodity. That is, sculpture could no longer be crafted by hand, or displayed as a testimony to craft skills and imagination; instead it had to respond to the characteristics of mass-produced consumer goods.
- Arman's persistent use of trash was a deliberate nod to the waste that mass production generates when time passes and goods are discarded. It also points to the wreckage of human history and the threat that humanity's production of waste might eventually literally bury us. In this respect, Arman's work might be read as an important early response to environmental issues.
Biography of Arman
Arman was born Armand Pierre Fernandez to Marie Jacquet and Antonio Fernandez in 1928. In his early years, Arman lived alone with Marie, who did not marry Antonio until Arman was five, and during those years he often relied on his own imagination and invention to occupy himself. Learning to play chess at the age of eight, Arman retained an interest in games of strategy throughout his life.
Important Art by Arman
Inspired by a rubber stamp collage by Kurt Schwitters, Arman considered Mauve Administratif to be among his first mature works. It is an example of his cachets, or "imprints." It incorporates areas of abstract painting in the manner of the lyrical abstraction that he had previously employed, but brings new, Minimalist-like methods to bear. In this way Arman married expressive brushwork with readymade motifs that carried no trace of the artist - an incongruous mix of opposites. The "collection" of imprints in the piece can be considered the root of the majority of his later work that featured a similar repetition of motifs. These stamp-and-ink works led to experimentation with other objects, such as hats and clothing, but Arman eventually found that he preferred to work with solid objects because they would retain their shape.
Le Plein (Full-up) which took place at Galerie Iris Clert, was inspired by Yves Klein's exhibition Le Vide (The Void). Klein's conceptual exhibition was also staged the Clert gallery in 1957, and consisted of an empty gallery with an empty display case. Originally planned to be shown immediately after Klein's installation, it took Arman two years to convince the gallery director to agree to his answer to Klein's exhibition. Arman originally wanted to have the garbage deposited in the gallery by sanitation workers - an indication of his interest in chance, and his desire to distance himself as author of the work - but he ended up collecting it himself when the city refused. When Arman's installation was completed, people could only view it through the glass windows of the gallery which had been completely filled with trash. Although a direct response to Klein's work, Le Plein showcased Arman's interest in the Dadaist's use of found and discarded objects. Klein is quoted as saying, "After my own emptiness comes Arman's fullness. The universal memory of art was lacking his conclusive mummification of quantification."
This particular colere was made at a television studio during the making of an American documentary about French avant-garde art. When asked in an interview about his attraction to acts of violence, Arman cited his fascination with the ability of war to channel sexual energy. In fact critics have often made parallels between the coleres and contemporary conflicts, though Arman was never too eager to make these connections himself. For him, destruction was simply another perspective through which to view the object. As he put it, "destruction is more to stop the time." Indeed, he saw his different tactics of multiplication and destruction as closely related approaches to the object. "My intent," he said, "is in exploring the various worlds of the object."
Influences and Connections
Useful Resources on Arman
- Amateur, Accumulator, Collector, ConnoisseurBy Jacques Kerchache
- First Major Retrospective of the Artist Arman Presented by Museum TinguelyOur PickApril 18, 2011
- Arman and the Art of the ObjectBy David Galenson / The Huffington Post / January 25, 2011
- Arman, 76, Found-Object Sculptor, DiesThe New York Times / By Ken Johnson / October 25, 2005
- Review/Art; Stacks of Odds and Ends That Tease the MindOur PickBy Roberta Smith / The New York Times / February 28, 1992