Abstract Expressionism to Nouveau Réalisme

USA and France

When we study both works by Arman at Villa Haiss, one can choose their own adventure in art history. The fragmented violins remind us of early 20th century Cubism which deconstructs its objects – often musical instruments – and grants the viewer multiple perspectives in just one painting. The splashes and blobs make us think of Action Paintings–arguably the most recognized painting technique of Abstract Expressionism.

However, Nouveau Réalisme, whose most acclaimed representatives include Arman as well as Jean Tinguely, Christo, and Daniel Spoerri, repudiated purely abstract art defining the art canon of the Western world since 1945. Collage, assemblage, accumulation: these are the new or rediscovered techniques that “New Realists” made their own in pursuit of bringing reality back into art. In doing so they did not shy away from leaving the studio space and installing real objects–newspaper clippings, everyday objects, or trash. Only after they had been mutilated, shredded, or blown up were they placed onto canvases or piled up in Plexiglas boxes, and the resulting fragments lay detached from their mere function to obtain a new aesthetic that defines the work.

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