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Jean Arp Sculptures: Arp’s Art Movement & Creative Sculptures

15.09.2021
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Jean Arp Sculptures

Jean Arp was born in Strasbourg on September 16, 1887. He studied in Weimar and Paris and by 1912 was already familiar with leading European artists, including members of the Blue Rider group, headed by Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. In 1915, Arp left for Zurich, where he lived until the end of the war; here he first showed his geometric collages at an exhibition. Many of his works were done in collaboration with the artist Sophie Teuber, whom he married in 1922. In 1916 in Zurich, he founded the group “Jean Arp Dada”.

The abstract wood reliefs created by the artist seem funny; the playful nature of the works is characteristic of Dadaism, but behind the ostentatious frivolity there are always complex intellectual activities and deep creative insight. In 1919–1920, Jean Hans Arp and Max Ernst led the German Dadaist group in Cologne.

Then dadaist Jean Arp moved to Paris and in 1925 participated in the first Surrealist exhibition, held at the Galeries Pierre. In 1930, he created the first three-dimensional sculptures in wood and soon began working in plaster, bronze, and stone. In 1958, a retrospective exhibition of Arp’s works was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Among the works presented there were squares arranged according to the laws of probability (collage, 1916-1917); Table with an egg (wooden relief, 1922), Human concretion (concrete, 1935), and Ptolemy (limestone, 1953). The artist took part in the decoration of the UNESCO building in Paris.

Features of Creativity

Features of Creativity Jean Arp
  • “Outraged by the massacre of the war of 1914, we in Zurich devoted ourselves entirely to art. While the cannons rumbled in the distance, we sang with all our might, painted, made collages and wrote poems,” – this is how Arp explained the meaning of Dadaist antics. Rather, their meaninglessness: the Dadaists decided to make art meaningless, seeing how meaninglessly human lives are destroyed in the war.
  • Arp’s criterion for art is not beauty, but chance, his works are created in a new artistic reality, where there is no place for the rational and logical. Arp, for example, scatters pieces of paper without any thoughtful order (they say, for this, he first climbed a ladder), and then glues them to those places on the cardboard on which they fell, resigned to chance. Or pretending to have resigned – it’s still very suspicious that the paper quadrangles fell on the cardboard, never touching each other.
  • “Arp believed that the artist should get rid of any kind of control as much as possible: only then would he be able to convey the spontaneity of nature in his works and resist all human inclinations to impose his own order on it,” art critic would Gompertz explains the essence of the method.
  • Jean Arp did not consider the artist a creator, not only in the sense of an idea, a plan (surrendering to chance) but also in terms of execution: he easily outsourced the production of sculptures and collages to his assistants. Arp does not believe that a work of art can be complete: he cuts old collages and finished sculptures into pieces in order to reassemble new ones from them or declare the fragment to be an independent work.

Arp’s Art Movement

Arp’s Art Movement

It is believed that the artist, sculptor, and poet Hans (Jean) Arp is one of those who had the greatest influence on the art of the 20th century, and there are many reasons for such a statement. In 1916, together with the artists Hugo Ball, Richard Hülsenbeck, and Tristan Tzara, Arp founded the Dada group in Zurich. Arp’s sculpture became one of the foundations of Dadaism, an avant-garde movement that protests against war and despotism. Choosing daring, sometimes playful irony, provocativeness as an artistic means of expression, the Dadaists tried to destroy the existing norms of social behavior and aesthetics and in a short time completely changed the picture of artistic life. Happenings and performances so characteristic of contemporary art originate directly from Dadaism. The same can be said about concrete poetry: it fully and completely exists within the framework of the poetic traditions of Arp.

Moreover, Jean Arp sculptures are recognized as the first in organic abstraction aimed at metamorphosis, continuous processes of birth, and changes in nature, which he made “the measure of all things.” Changeable, one might even say, “fluid” plastic is clearly manifested in the master’s three-dimensional compositions, which are considered central in his art.

Around 1930, Hans Arp Dada, who was almost 40 years old, created the first plastic works, but his characteristic language of forms was already clearly visible in earlier collages, reliefs, and drawings (it can be traced throughout the artist’s career). The transitions from one technique to another, whether in the visual arts or in poetry, are fluid. Often, Arp is circling around certain motives, returning to the original ideas years later. It may seem that his art is closed on itself, although at the same time it is striking in its versatility.

Arp never limited himself to the framework of any direction, one of the many “isms”, never belonged to any particular group of artists: he could conduct a dialogue with the surrealists in Paris and at the same time communicate with constructivists. According to his Parisian gallery owner Denise Rene, “he was the most abstract of the surrealists and the most surreal of the abstractionists”, because “Arp’s growth is an example of – a whole nature, he always remained true to himself.

Jean Arp Paintings

The Jean Arp artwork style is characterized by the use of soft, clear, and simple forms taken from nature, such as clouds, leaves, and human bodies.

  • “The beginning of the landscape”, 1927
  • “Dance”, 1926
Birds in the Aquarium , 1920.
  • “Birds in the Aquarium”, 1920. Arp expressed the idea: man is no longer “the measure of all things”, as has been proclaimed since the Renaissance.
  • “Man, mustache, navel”
  • “Leaves and drops”

Poetic and full of metaphysical meaning, Arp’s works often include relief forms reminiscent of organic formations.

  • “The shape of the earthly forest”
  • “Constellation with 5 white shapes and 2 black”
  • “Mustached hat”

Arp was inspired by clusters of stars, clouds, and stones. Arp’s art is closed on itself, although at the same time it amazes with its versatility.

  • “Shirt front and fork”
  • “Flower hammer”
Branch in the center
  • “Branch in the center”. Changeable, one might even say, “fluid” plastic is clearly manifested in the master’s three-dimensional compositions, which are considered central in his art.
Constellations
  • “Constellations”. Since about the 1930s, the sculpture has become the central theme of the master’s work. Arp preferred plaster. Thanks to this neutral, easily molded material, the artist was able to create smooth surfaces and straight lines. He sometimes changed his works, and the plaster made it possible to remove or add something.
  • “Height”
Human mass
  • “Human mass”. Arp did not follow a premeditated plan. He tore up the paper, prepared the plaster cast, and at the same time instructed assistants to make casts from their sculptures, which were necessary in order for the seemingly completed thing to become the starting point for a new one. Sometimes he divided sculptures into segments, combined or cut out a new shape from them.
  • “Recollection of forms: human, lunar, ghostly”
Preadamite torso
  • “Preadamite torso”/ For Jean Arp artworks, it was important to search for the ratio of sizes and various materials (wood, bronze, marble, limestone, granite, aluminum). So in 1953, his assistant enlarged the 39-centimeter sculpture to a monument over three meters high, called the “Wolkenhirt”.
  • “Heavenly Shepherd”
Inspiration
  • “Inspiration”. Arp’s sculptures clearly reflect a new attitude towards nature. The centuries-old desire of artists to “portray” has been replaced by the desire to “shape” it in a manner similar to natural processes.
  • “Star”

“Pagoda of Fruits”. Conceived in the last decade of the head and shell artist’s life, “Demeter” is the culmination of his long study of the human form, interpreted here through the classic storylines of Greek mythology. The bronze sculpture was conceived in 1960 and created in 1964. Subsequently, 5 bronze castings were made.

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