Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The World According to Arp

Today is the birthday of sculptor, painter, poet & philosopher Jean (Hans) Arp, born September 16, 1886.

Arp was born in Strasbourg, and showed great promise at drawing and poetry from an early age. Enrolled in the Strasbourg School of Applied Art, he soon grew tired of what he called "the everlasting copying of stuffed birds and withered flowers," and by the age of 18 he had left the school and was living in Paris, practicing modern painting. In 1911 he helped organize an exhibition in Lucerne under the title "Moderne Bund" which showed his works and those of Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso, and others. The same year he visited Kandinsky, met the artists of the Blaue Reiter, and was soon contributing to their exhibitions and publications.

Arp was a founding member of the Dada movement in Zürich, and in 1920, along with Max Ernst and Alfred Grünwald, he set up the Cologne Dada group. His work also appeared in the first exhibition of surrealism at the Galerie Pierre in Paris in 1925. At this time, Arp's work was composed by laws of chance as much as from the workings of the unconscious - the cardinal principles underlying early Surrealism. By the late 1920's Arp broke with surrealism to found "Abstraction-Création" which was a much more open movement, embracing many kinds of non-figurative art, including Arp's increasing fascination with biomorphism and geometrical abstraction, which would last for the rest of his life.

Arp was a pioneer of abstract art and a founder of the most consequential art movements of the 20th century. He prefigured both junk art and the Fluxus movement, and his investigations of chance and accident proved especially influential in liberating art from conscious creativity. He died in 1966 in Basel, Switzerland.

Until the end of his life, Arp wrote and published poetry.

The Air is a Root

The air is a root.
The stones are filled with tenderness. bravo.
bravo. the stones are filled with air.
the stones are watery branches.
on the stones replacing the mouth
grows the skeleton of a leaf. bravo.
A stone voice face to face and foot to foot
with a stone glance.
the stones are tormented like flesh
the stones are clouds for their second
nature dances to them on their third nose.
bravo. bravo.
when the stones scratch themselves, nails grow
on the roots. bravo. bravo.
the stones woke to eat the exact

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