Jean Arp

Jean Arp
Konfiguration (Configuration), 1932
Schalenbaum (Coupes superposées), 1960
Konfiguration (Configuration), 1932
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Jean Arp
Konfiguration (Configuration), 1932

Configuration, 1932
Painted wood relief, 69,9 x 55 x 3,5 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

The title Nach dem Gesetz des Zufalls (According to the law of chance) is strictly speaking a contradiction in terms, for chance knows no law – or is that its law? Arp strove to find an artistic form of expression that had nothing to do with a subject, nothing to do with a description of any kind. He sought to free himself entirely from any such ties when creating a work. In his wood reliefs, he fuses an abstract, two-dimensional image reduced to just a few colours with the three-dimensionality of sculpture. His forms are irregular and organic in character, but have no precise equivalent in nature.

Schalenbaum (Coupes superposées), 1960
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Jean Arp
Schalenbaum (Coupes superposées), 1960

Tree of Bowls
Bronze, cast 0/3, cast by Rudier, France, 1982, 196 x 99 x 105.5 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

The work is a magnified version of an earlier composition from 1947. It is not the image of a tree, as implied by the German title Schalenbaum (Tree of bowls), but nor is the French title Coupes superposées (Stacked bowls) entirely appropriate, for the three similarly rounded, superimposed elements seem to rise up in an organic movement. As in the case of Brancusi’s Colonnes sans fin (Endless Columns), Arp’s ‘Stacked bowls’ demonstrates the principle of a sequence of similar structures evolving out of a single form.

Jean Arp

1886, Strasbourg – 1966, Basel

As an artist, the Franco-German painter, printmaker and sculptor Jean (Hans) Arp also had a strong affinity to poetry and literature. While illustrating a poetry edition by Tristan Tzara, he became acquainted with the writers Hugo Ball and Richard Huelsenbeck, joining them to launch the Dada movement in 1916. His abstract art was denounced by the Nazis as “degenerate” and banned. In the 1950s Arp turned increasingly to sculpture in his work. In this period he produced important works for the universities of Harvard and Caracas, as well as for the UNESCO building in Paris. Jean Arp exhibited several times at the documenta (1955, 1959, 1964), as well as showing at the Venice Biennale. In 1954 he was awarded the Biennale’s Grand Prize for Sculpture.

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