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Introduction

This event is supported by the European cultural Season, organized during the French Presidency of the European Union (July 1st – Dec. 31st, 2008)
Strasbourg Ville de culture  Communauté urbaine de Strasbourg  Saison culturelle européenne  Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication  Musées de France  Museum - Musées  Dernières nouvelles d'Alsace  France 3 - Alsace

© 2008 - Les Musées de la Ville de Strasbourg

 


[2] EYES OPEN AND CLOSED

At the time of Dada and in a subsequently recurring manner, Arp opted for an effacing of the artist-subject, allowing his creations to escape his control. In order to do this, he left things up to a form of automatism, or to the laws of chance – hence the two subsections below.
In the first case, Arp lets himself be guided by interior emotions giving free rein to spontaneous, nearly automatic writing, take for example the India ink drawings in the 1910’s which have for starting point natural objects: broken branches, roots, grass and rocks, of which only the «quivering» subsists. This is the term Arp gave to Kandinsky’s work which undeniably left its mark on his drawings. Arp himself made the parallel between these drawings and his first colored wood reliefs whose so-called «terrestrial» forms are to be seen as abbreviations of nature. Arp continued to explore the mechanisms of this automatic writing, notably in the 30’s and 40’s: at times the line became pure calligraphy, at times it took on a brut aspect, especially noticeable in the oils and gouaches of the series dedicated to Sophie Taeuber-Arp (who died accidentally in 1943).
In the second case, Arp chose to do away with the sacrosanct laws of composition, substituting them with «laws of chance», arranging the paper in the 1916-1917 collages in place of the artist. These «laws of chance» are found in nature and more precisely in its principals of organization, i.e., the «constellation». Indeed, Nature works with a limited and like number of elements –consider the stars in the sky, but also the flowers of the field and the trees in the forest – grouping together and regrouping in diverse constellations. According to Arp, these elements, seemingly arranged by chance, are in reality linked together by laws imperceptible to man’s eye: this is how the paradoxical expression «laws of chance» can be explained. These laws governed the distribution of quadrangular pieces of paper in the collages of 1916-1917 and the ovoid forms often referred to as «cosmic» in the reliefs of  the 30’s and 40’s.

If these two procedures carefully reflect the idea of works created «with closed eyes», it is impossible to ignore the proposition’s other term: for despite what Arp, or witnesses might have suggested, these works are obviously made «with open eyes». An arrangement with chance is easily recognizable – otherwise how to explain that the elements in the collages always organize themselves according to the same compositional principal, i.e. a grid – in the same way the automatic writing is controlled – otherwise why incorporate India ink into preliminary drawings?