This event is supported by the European cultural Season, organized during the French Presidency of the European Union (July 1st – Dec. 31st, 2008)
© 2008 - Les Musées de la Ville de Strasbourg
« For Arp, art is Arp ».
The expression is Marcel Duchamp’s. Despite its obviousness, this alliteration incites a questioning of art according to Arp that refuses to conform to one definition, one adherence, one style or one technique, but rather, tends to thread its way throughout one and all. Indeed, his artistic career invalidates a linear, narrow reading of the history of the avant-garde: carefully selected, documented milestones show he was able to flout petty squabbling and reconcile the irreconcilable, for example, expressionism and Dada, Dada and surrealism, surrealism and constructive art. As such, a strictly chronological course was not an ideal solution: rather the exhibition prefers to concentrate on the work’s internal logic, seizing upon the special creative processes, their emergence, their eventual renewal and their possible variations. Questioning these processes doesn’t entail taking into account the «how it’s made» as an end in itself, but understanding how the work’s content elaborates itself as it takes form, how the mind and the hands, never at rest, complement each other. Henceforth, the exhibition explores the questions of the materials Arp used to break with tradition: composition, as it’s overshadowed by the improvisation of India ink drawings or driven by the «laws of chance» in collages; formal vocabulary, born entirely from the metamorphosis of an essential form, the oval: or again, the question of author, paying careful attention to the role of the hand, sometimes absent in favor of anonymous creation (works created in conjunction with Sophie Taeuber and many others) or delegated creations (accredited assistants reproducing sculptures), sometimes intimately uniting with material breathing life into it, in the torn, crumpled papers and in plaster sculptures. But Arp also excels in poetic art, a topic to be explored in and of itself (especially first editions), and relationship to Fine Arts.
In order to show this «incessant need to produce» that Jean Cassou (1) spoke of, the exhibit is presenting a collection of around 180 sculptures, reliefs, collages and drawings reunited in close collaboration with the three Arp foundations (Clamart, Locarno, Rolandseck), the newly inaugurated Arp Bahnhof Rolandseck Museum and also made possible thanks to the generosity of numerous museums (the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris, the Kunstmuseum Basle, the Nationalgalerie of Berlin, the National Gallery of Washington, the Museum of Modern Art in New York), and private donors. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue rich in scientific documentation – each of the exhibition’s eight thematic sections is enlightened by an author’s text (Julia Droste, Thierry Dufrêne, Isabelle Ewig, Emmanuel Guigon, Walburga Krupp, Gabriele Mahn, Guitemie Maldonado, Eric Robertson, Georges Sebbag) – and in iconographic documentation, all works on exhibit are the object of photographic reproduction. Reaching beyond the strict logic of a retrospective, photographer Martin d’Orgeval offers a visual essay, while Patrick Beurard-Valdoye pays poetic homage to Arp. Numerous manifestations –symposiums, conferences, an evening performance around dada, poetry readings, pedagogical workshops, etc. – make Strasbourg’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art an indispensable venue for the discovery of and a deeper look into Arp’s artistic and literary work.
(1) Jean Cassou (1897-1986) writer, Resistance fighter, art critic and poet was director of the National Museum of Modern Art (Paris) from 1945 to 1965. In 1962, he gave Arp his first personal exhibition in a French public institution.