Ways to support us
About The Art Story a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Org
Arman Photo

Arman

French-American Artist

Born: November 17, 1928 - Nice, France
Died: October 22, 2005 - New York, NY, USA
"As a witness of my society, I have always been very much involved in the cycle of production, consumption, and destruction."
1 of 6
Arman Signature
"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."
2 of 6
Arman Signature
"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."
3 of 6
Arman Signature
"Through the history of art we can see through the emotional life, and sometimes the financial security of some of the artists, some transformation. And I really believe that it's generally about the same kind of transformation and the same kind of reaction. We are a little bit less individual than we would like to believe or guess we are."
4 of 6
Arman Signature
"I maintain that the expression of junk and objects has an intrinsic value, and I see no need to look for aesthetic forms in them and to adapt them to the colors of the palette."
5 of 6
Arman Signature
"Design is more of a kitchen than a knife, and more of a lab than a beaker."
6 of 6
Arman Signature

Summary of Arman

Arman is most associated with the Nouveau Réalisme (New Realism) 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.

Accomplishments

  • 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 (and to Assemblage). 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.

Biography of Arman

Arman Photo

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.

Important Art by Arman

Progression of Art
1957

Mauve Administratif

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

1960

Le Plein

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

1961

NBC Rage

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

1960

Little Hands

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

1982

Long Term Parking

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

1998

O'Clock

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

Similar Art

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Arman
Influenced by Artist
Open Influences
Close Influences

Useful Resources on Arman

Share
Do more

Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

"Arman Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
Available from:
First published on 22 Nov 2011. Updated and modified regularly
[Accessed ]