Arman Life and Art Periods

"As a witness of my society, I have always been very much involved in the cycle of production, consumption, and destruction."

ARMAN SYNOPSIS

Arman is most associated with the Nouveau Realiste (New Realist) movement that emerged in 1960, and which represented France's response to the trend of Pop art that was sweeping Europe and the United States. Arman had first emerged as a lyrical abstract painter, but he soon rejected the style and began making sculpture inspired by the concept of the readymade. Arman's most notable work was preoccupied with the consequences of mass production: his Accumulations often reflected on the identical character of modern objects; his Poubelles, or "trash cans," considered the waste that results when these objects are discarded; and his Coleres, or "rages," expressed an almost irrational rage at objects that, in modern times, threatened to dominate everyday life. At his best, Arman delivered a powerful and chilling rejection of modernization and the culture of mass consumption. Later, he developed an aesthetic based on the act of destruction, his pieces commemorating the obliteration objects in various ways.

ARMAN KEY IDEAS

Many of Arman's early sculptures point to the strangeness inherent in the idea of identical, mass produced objects. Gathering these identical objects together, he distracts us from their functional purpose and presents them instead as endlessly repeated forms - forms which seem to have a deeper meaning that, bia the processes of modernization, has been lost to us. In his focus on repetition, Arman's work echoes that of many American Minimalists and Pop artists of the same period.
Arman was important in pioneering the European return to Marcel Duchamp's idea of the readymade. Arman's fascination with it points to his belief that contemporary sculpture had to confront the commodity. That is, sculpture could no longer be crafted by hand, or displayed as a testimony to craft skills and imagination; instead it had to respond to the characteristics of mass-produced consumer goods.
Arman's persistent use of trash was a deliberate nod to the waste that mass production generates when time passes and goods are discarded. It also points to the wreckage of human history and the threat that humanity's production of waste might eventually literally bury us. In this respect, Arman's work might be read as an important early response to environmental issues.
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ARMAN BIOGRAPHY

Childhood

Arman was born Armand Pierre Fernandez to Marie Jacquet and Antonio Fernandez in 1928. In his early years, Arman lived alone with Marie, who did not marry Antonio until Arman was five, and during those years he often relied on his own imagination and invention to occupy himself. Learning to play chess at the age of eight, Arman retained an interest in games of strategy throughout his life.

Although Arman admired his mother's strength of character, it was his father's cultural interests that shaped his career. Antonio enjoyed painting, poetry and music, and taught his son to paint at an early age. An antiques and furniture dealer, Antonio's interest in collecting provided fundamental inspiration for Arman's sculpture, particularly the accumulation pieces.

His father's side of the family, who were also well-versed in painting, encouraged Arman's artistic leanings, although his style diverged from the family's preference for traditional forms. After graduating with degrees in philosophy and mathematics, Arman enrolled in the Ecole Nationale d'Art Decoratif in Nice, but soon dropped-out due to the conservative views of the school.

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Early Training

Arman Biography

While studying judo, in 1947, Arman met Yves Klein, who became his life-long friend and also his collaborator in the Nouveau Realisme movement. In addition to painting, Arman and Klein were deeply involved in the study and practice of Hinduism, Rosicrucianism, and Zen Buddhism for the next several years. And out of admiration of Vincent Van Gogh, who signed his name only with "Vincent," they decided to use only their first names.

Following pressure from his father to take a "real" job, Arman enrolled in the Ecole de Louvre in 1949 and studied to be an auctioneer. During this time, he continued to paint, adopting a Surrealist style. By 1951, Arman had dropped out of the Ecole de Louvre and started to teach judo at a school in Madrid with Klein.

By 1953, Arman had returned to Nice, and had focused once again on art after an injury prevented his martial arts training. He worked part-time as a salesman for his father's business, developing a serious interest in antiques and collectibles. In the same year, he married Eliane Radigue, a composer and pianist. By this time, Arman's painting had evolved into a more abstract style that was heavily influenced by the painters Serge Poliakoff and Nicolas de Stael.

Mature period

After seeing works by Kurt Schwitters in Paris in 1954, Arman began to experiment with rubber stamps, producing works called cachets that were included in his first solo exhibition in 1956. The stamp-and-ink technique marked a rejection of the lyricism of his earlier painting since it relied on the repetition of identical, readymade motifs; and the occasional use of date stamps pointed to a new preoccupation with time. The cachets then led to the allures d'objets, which utilized solid objects such as chains, pins and nails that were dipped in ink and imprinted on paper. Some of the allures were created by crushing fragile objects, which inspired a series of coleres (rages). These pieces mostly consisted of musical instruments smashed and then mounted onto a flat surface. Chosen perhaps in tribute to his father's cultured tastes, the coleres were simultaneously a homage to Cubism, and a provocative attack on a well-loved aspect of popular culture.

Armand Pierre Fernandez adopted the name Arman following a printer's error in an exhibition catalogfor his 1958 group show at Galerie Iris Clert, in which the 'd' was dropped from his name.

Arman Photo

Perhaps Arman's greatest notoriety came in the wake of his 1960 exhibition, Le Plein (Full-up). In response to Yves Klein's earlier exhibition at the same gallery, Le Vide (Empty), Arman filled the gallery completely with trash to the extent that it could only be viewed through the window from the street. Originally, in accordance with his love of chance, Arman had wanted to have sanitation workers dump art in any manner they pleased into the gallery, but the city refused to allow it.

Le Plein caught the attention of art critic Pierre Restany, who declared that Arman's work exhibited the "properly architectonic dimension" of a new realism. And in the same year Arman signed a manifesto that aligned him with Restany, Klein and the other artists formed a new movement named Nouveau Realisme, a French equivalent of Pop art in America. Shortly after this, Arman's growing reputation led to his inclusion in the important American survey, The Art of Assemblage, which was staged at the Museum of Modern Art. During the show, Arman stayed in New York for several months and became fascinated with American culture, later moving there with his family in 1963.

Late years and death

Arman Portrait

Arman's first solo museum exhibition opened in 1964 at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, followed by his first retrospective in Brussels two years later. In 1971, Arman married Corice Canton after divorcing his first wife. They settled in New York permanently and gained American citizenship, Arman legally changing his name to Armand Pierre Arman. In New York, Arman continued to produce variations on his earlier art, and he also worked on a larger scale, creating monumental sculptures such as Long Term Parking (1982) and Hope for Peace (1976). Known for his strong views on politics and human rights, Arman served as the President of the New York chapter of Amnesty International for five years. These humanitarian principles also led him to pull out of his first retrospective in his hometown, Nice, which had hosted a convention during which a Neo-Nazi made Anti-Semitic remarks (the exhibition was later rescheduled for 2002). Arman died from cancer in 2005 at the age of seventy-seven.

ARMAN LEGACY

Arman's work is an important bridge between European and American trends in Pop art in the 1960s through the 1970s. His own collection of African Art has been an invaluable addition to institutions worldwide, including the Museum of African Art in New York, where his wife is a current board member. The Armand P. Arman Trust and Corice Canton Arman continue to uphold his legacy, supporting education and research on the artist's life and work. A comprehensive exhibition of Arman's work opened in February 2011 at the Museum Tinguely in Basel, in conjunction with the Centre Pompidou, underlining Arman's enduring relevance in the art world today.

Original content written by The Art Story Contributors
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ARMAN QUOTES

"I have a very strong feeling about the object. First, on account of my environment. My father was selling antiques and things and I was concerned with the object. Secondly, my feeling of quantity. When I was a child, a quantity of objects was always interesting and I was always transforming those quantities. And, I guess I was in a sense a collector -- I have the instinct of a rat pack collector."

"I was painting like 10,000 other painters. I didn't bring much to these paintings but it was a very good exercise. But I guess it's very important to afford to do a lot of bad things, of wrong things, of weak things. If you can afford it, maybe one day you will do some good things, too."

Arman

Arman Influences

Interactive chart with Arman's main influencers, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.

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Marcel Duchamp
Marcel Duchamp
The French artist Marcel Duchamp was an instrumental figure in the avant-garde art worlds of Paris and New York. Moving through Dada, Surrealism, readymades, sculpture, and installation, his work involves conceptual play and an implicit attack on bourgeois art sensibilities.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Marcel Duchamp
Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock was the most well-known Abstract Expressionist and the key example of Action Painting. His work ranges from Jungian scenes of primitive rites to the purely abstract "drip paintings" of his later career.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Jackson Pollock
Kurt Schwitters
Kurt Schwitters
Kurt Schwitters was a German multi-media artist who was particularly influential in the development of the Dada and Constructivist movements. By the 1920s, Schwitters was heavily involved in the international avant-garde, touring the world with artists like Hans Arp and Tristan Tzara. These travels earned him wide acclaim in the U.S. and scrutiny in his native Germany, which would soon come under the control of the Third Reich.

Modern Art Information Kurt Schwitters
Antonio Fernandez
Antonio Fernandez
Jose Antonio Fernandez-Muro was a twentieth-century Spanish-born, Argentinian multi-media artist, and a member of the Modern Artists Group, created by Aldo Pelligrini. Initially a portraitist and figure artist, Fernandez later became fascinated with Pop art, graffiti and other postmodern artistic trends, and devoted himself to geometric compositions and the written word.

Modern Art Information Antonio Fernandez
Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol was an American Pop artist best known for his prints and paintings of consumer goods, celebrities, and photographed disasters. One of the most famous and influential artists of the 1960s, he pioneered compositions and techniques that emphasized repetition and the mechanization of art.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Andy Warhol
Cubism
Cubism
Cubism was developed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque between 1907-1911, and it continued to be highly influential long after its decline. This classic phase has two stages: 'Analytic', in which forms seem to be 'analyzed' and fragmented; and 'Synthetic', in which pre-existing materials such as newspaper and wood veneer are collaged to the surface of the canvas.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Cubism
Dada
Dada
Dada was an artistic and literary movement that emerged in 1916. It arose in reaction to World War I, and the nationalism and rationalism that many thought had led to the War. Influenced by several avant-gardes - Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism, and Expressionism - its output was wildly diverse, ranging from performance art to poetry, photography, sculpture, painting and collage. Emerging first in Zurich, it spread to cities including Berlin, Hanover, Paris, New York and Cologne.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Dada
Surrealism
Surrealism
Perhaps the most influential avant-garde movement of the century, Surrealism was founded in Paris in 1924 by a small group of writers and artists who sought to channel the unconscious as a means to unlock the power of the imagination. Much influenced by Freud, they believed that the conscious mind repressed the power of the imagination. Influenced also by Marx, they hoped that the psyche had the power to reveal the contradictions in the everyday world and spur on revolution.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Surrealism
Damien Hirst
Damien Hirst
Damien Hirst is a British installation and conceptual artist, and in the 1980s was a founding member of the Young British Artists (YBAs). His best known work is Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991), comprised of a dead tiger shark suspended in a vitrine of formaldehyde.

Modern Art Information Damien Hirst
Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons is an American sculptor, painter and Neo-Pop artist, best known for mirror-finished stainless steel constructions of animals and everyday objects. Koons' works are often large public installations, in which viewers are invited to interact with his art.

Modern Art Information Jeff Koons
Christo
Christo
Christo is a Bulgarian land and environmental artist, best known as one half of the married artist team Christo and Jeanne-Claude (his wife who died in 2009). Together, Christo and Jeanne-Claude created temporary land art installations, so grand in scale and ambition that controversy often followed. The best known examples of their work include Wrapped Coast (1969) in Little Bay, Australian, Wrapped Reichstag (1995) in Berlin, and The Gates (2004) in New York City.

Modern Art Information Christo
Yves Klein
Yves Klein
Yves Klein was a French Neo-Dadaist artist who produced a series of monochrome works in 1957. He is credited with creating an entirely new color of blue, eventually called International Klein Blue. He employed this color in his paintings made by covering naked bodies with pigment and using them as "paintbrushes," an important antecedent to later performance art.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Yves Klein
Nouveau Realisme
Nouveau Realisme
Nouveau Realisme (New Realism) refers to an artistic movement founded in 1960 by the art critic Pierre Restany and artist Yves Klein during the first collective exposition in the Apollinaire Gallery in Milan. Pierre Restany wrote the original manifesto for the group, titled the "Constitutive Declaration of New Realism," in April 1960.

Modern Art Information Nouveau Realisme
Pop Art
Pop Art
British artists of the 1950s were the first to make popular culture the dominant subject of their art, and this idea became an international phenomenon in the 1960s. But the Pop art movement is most associated with New York, and artists such as Andy Warhol, who broke with the private concerns of the Abstract Expressionists, and turned to themes which touched on public life and mass society.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Pop Art
Minimalism
Minimalism
Minimalism emerged as a movement in New York in the 1960s, its leading figures creating objects which blurred the boundaries between painting and sculpture, and were characterized by unitary, geometric forms and industrial materials. Emphasizing cool anonymity over the passionate expression of the previous generation of painters, the Minimalists attempted to avoid metaphorical associations, symbolism, and suggestions of spiritual transcendence.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Minimalism
Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch painter, commonly associated with the Post-Impressionist period. As one of the most prolific and experimental artists of his time, van Gogh was a spontaneous painter and a master of color and perspective. Troubled by personal demons all his life, many historians speculate that van Gogh suffered from a Bipolar disorder.
TheArtStory - Modern Art GuideModern Art Information Vincent van Gogh
Nicolas de Stael
Nicolas de Stael
Nicolas de Stael was a Russian-born French painter, best known for his highly abstracted landscapes and use of thick impasto brushstrokes. Although de Stael's brief career was cut short by suicide, brought on by a life-long depression, his influence was felt by many twentieth-century artists, particularly those of the Bay Area Figurative Movement.

Modern Art Information Nicolas de Stael
Mauve Administratif
Mauve Administratif

Title: Mauve Administratif (1957)

Artwork Description & Analysis: Inspired by a rubber stamp collage by Kurt Schwitters, Arman considered Mauve Administratif to be among his first mature works. It is an example of his cachets, or "imprints." It incorporates areas of abstract painting in the manner of the lyrical abstraction that he had previously employed, but brings new, Minimalist-like methods to bear. In this way Arman married expressive brushwork with readymade motifs that carried no trace of the artist - an incongruous mix of opposites. The "collection" of imprints in the piece can be considered the root of the majority of his later work that featured a similar repetition of motifs. These stamp-and-ink works led to experimentation with other objects, such as hats and clothing, but Arman eventually found that he preferred to work with solid objects because they would retain their shape.


- Estate of the artist

Le Plein
Le Plein

Title: Le Plein (1960)

Artwork Description & Analysis: Le Plein (Full-up) which took place at Galerie Iris Clert, was inspired by Yves Klein's exhibition Le Vide (The Void). Klein's conceptual exhibition was also staged the Clert gallery in 1957, and consisted of an empty gallery with an empty display case. Originally planned to be shown immediately after Klein's installation, it took Arman two years to convince the gallery director to agree to his answer to Klein's exhibition. Arman originally wanted to have the garbage deposited in the gallery by sanitation workers - an indication of his interest in chance, and his desire to distance himself as author of the work - but he ended up collecting it himself when the city refused. When Arman's installation was completed, people could only view it through the glass windows of the gallery which had been completely filled with trash. Although a direct response to Klein's work, Le Plein showcased Arman's interest in the Dadaist's use of found and discarded objects. Klein is quoted as saying, "After my own emptiness comes Arman's fullness. The universal memory of art was lacking his conclusive mummification of quantification."


Garbage - Originally exhibited at Galerie Iris Clert, Paris

NBC Rage
NBC Rage

Title: NBC Rage (1961)

Artwork Description & Analysis: This particular colere was made at a television studio during the making of an American documentary about French avant-garde art. When asked in an interview about his attraction to acts of violence, Arman cited his fascination with the ability of war to channel sexual energy. In fact critics have often made parallels between the coleres and contemporary conflicts, though Arman was never too eager to make these connections himself. For him, destruction was simply another perspective through which to view the object. As he put it, "destruction is more to stop the time." Indeed, he saw his different tactics of multiplication and destruction as closely related approaches to the object. "My intent," he said, "is in exploring the various worlds of the object."


Broken bass fiddle mounted on wood panel - Estate of the artist

Little Hands
Little Hands

Title: Little Hands (1960)

Artwork Description & Analysis: Little Hands is typical of the strategy behind Arman's Accumulations series, where he would gather identical objects together and display them in a vitrine, or glass-fronted case. Works such as this have often been described as Surrealist, since Surrealist artists were typically intrigued by mannequins and other discarded commodities. But Arman's method of accumulating objects shifts the emphasis from the peculiarities of the individual object to the phenomena of repetition and mass production. Some critics have suggested that the inspiration for such works might have come instead from Alain Resnais film Night and Fog (1955), the first documentary film about the Holocaust, which contained images of the piled clothing and other identical objects taken from prisoners upon their admission to concentration camps. This reading seems to properly capture the violence of Little Hands, with its awful suggestion of a massacre of the innocents.


Dolls' hands - Artists' estate

Long Term Parking
Long Term Parking

Title: Long Term Parking (1982)

Artwork Description & Analysis: This ambitious sculpture stands 50 feet high, consisting of 60 cars encased in over 40,000 pounds of concrete. As a monument to modernity, it might be compared with Vladimir Tatlin's Monument to the Third International (1919-20), which was conceived as a celebration of a new era of technology and progress following the Russian Revolution of 1917. By contrast, Long Term Parking calls attention to the failure of modern utopias. The concrete shell leaves the vehicles functionally useless, pouring scorn on the products of mass production and the overblown proportions of American consumerism. Completed over the course of seven years, it represents the culmination of Arman's Accumulations series.


Automobiles in concrete - Chateau de Montcel, Jouy-en-Josas, France

O'Clock
O'Clock

Title: O'Clock (1998)

Artwork Description & Analysis: Clocks and timepieces make recurring appearances in Arman's work, a reflection of his abiding interest in time. Yet when asked if he had an obsession with time, he demurred, explaining that his desire to freeze time has more to do with an obsession with memories. "Memory creates time," he said. "Time doesn't exist. It doesn't exist in any way. It's more subjective than real. Time doesn't exist. I believe in memory. Memory is the real inspiration. Memory creates time. Memory is pure power. Pure power and pure strength, and pure utilization of space and time (if time is something we can really ever label). But I don't believe in time itself."


Alarm clocks in Plexiglas - Estate of the artist

Bibliography
The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing this page. These also suggests some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.