Unreal Nature

July 7, 2015

Cloth, String, Bark, Mud

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:37 am

… “I was attracted by artifacts covered with materials and charged with magical powers.”

Continuing through the essay ‘Modernist Primitivism: An Introduction’ by the book’s editor in “Primitivism” in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern edited by William Rubin (1984):

… The seeming simplicity and rawness of collage certainly constituted for Picasso a second primitivizing reaction, in this case against the hermeticism and belle-peinture of high Analytic Cubism. … In the spring of 1912, when Picasso glued a piece of oilcloth on his Still Life with Chair Caning and ordered an “endless” mariner’s rope to go round it in place of a frame, he not only short-circuited the refined painterly language of high Analytic Cubism, but undercut its “classical” structure by introducing a mélange of materials previously considered incompatible with the Fine Arts. His subsequent application of the collage technique to constructed sculpture created the hybrid form known as “assemblage.”

While Picasso’s admixture of cloth and rope was unprecedented in the Western tradition, the principle of such mélanges was familiar to him in tribal sculptures whose makers often utilized cloth, raffia, string, bark, metal, mud, and found objects in conjunction with wood and other materials …

[ … ]

Samaras_Box01
Lucas Samaras, Box #1, 1962

DogFetish02_Vili_Congo
Dog fetish, Vili, People’s Republic of the Congo, Musée de l’Homme, Paris

… African fetishes are generally collective in their ideology, and the significance of the components is clear to the initiates. The modern artist works with more private symbols. Lucas Samaras, for example, selects such strictly domestic material for Box #1 that its “fetishism” turns inward in an almost Freudian way. Arman’s Cool Hands Blue is consistent with the fetishistic principle operant in all his “Accumulations,” the gloves having a particularly Freudian resonance (established in modern painting by de Chirico).

Arman_CoolHandsBlue
Arman, Cool Hands Blue, 1977

[line break added to make this easier to read online] Yet the configuration of the Arman, which is primarily indebted to “allover” painting gives it a relatively formal appearance, closer to such “classic” nail fetishes as the Dog of the Musée de l’Homme than to the one at the Berlin Museum. A longtime collector of African art, Arman feels a deep affinity with tribal art, but like most artist collectors, does not borrow from it directly. Yet his collecting of African art is no accident. “At the beginning of my interest in African art” he recalls:

I was attracted by artifacts covered with materials and charged with magical powers. Such fetishes, which reflected a sense of the “accumulative,” were somehow close to some of my own work in their allover multiplication of elements and the resultant power of suggestion.

DogFetish_Vili_Congo
Dog fetish, Vili, People’s Republic of the Congo, Museum für Völkerkinde, Berlin

My most recent previous post from this book is here.

-Julie

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