By Matt Hardman, Seraphin Gallery Resident
Arman is a major 20th century sculptor, associated with the Nouveau Realiste movement in France in the 1960’s. Inspired by readymade art, Arman utilized modern, everyday objects as the subjects of his work. He believed that in the modern world, sculpture could not be crafted by hand if it were to properly reflect and respond to the properties of consumer products. Arman addressed the absurdity that is inherent to mass-produced, identical goods by assembling them together in a way that obscures their functional purposes. Concerned with mass consumption in the modern world, specifically the waste it creates, Arman’s work is often considered to be an early example of environmental art.
Later in his career, Arman began destroying objects in his sculptures. Exemplified by Untitled (figure 1) in which he deconstructs a violin to fit within the polyester resin cube. Violins are romantic objects that represent Western ideals for culture and excellence, when destroyed it suggests a much larger concern the artist has for culture in the late 20th century. This sculpture can be perceived as a response to World War II, where many European artists saw firsthand the destruction of Western culture and the horrors of warfare.This anxiety and fear fueled art movements that both celebrated and condemned modern culture.
While Pop Art addressed consumerism as a source of inspiration, Arman chooses to expose the immediate threat consumer culture has against high art as well as the environment. This is evident in Arman’s use of the readymade, allowing trash and destruction to be elevated to fine art. The artist is concerned that if the modern world throws away the objects it creates just as quickly as they are made, then what could that say about art’s place in modern culture? Arman’s contribution to sculpture influenced the Neo-Dada and Assemblage movements of the late 60’s. Come see Untitled currently on display in Gallery 2 at Seraphin Gallery.