"These works are self-contained, independent 'realities'"

The Art of the 1930s

In the work of both Arp and Taeuber-Arp, the 1930s stand for a multitude of conceptual and technical innovations. In 1929, when they moved into a house and studio outside Paris that Taeuber-Arp had designed, they left behind their teaching positions in Zurich. For the first time, they were able to work in complete artistic freedom. They created works of striking purism, clearly ordered configurations of circles and rectangles, or Space Pictures that combined static and dynamic elements in perfect equilibrium. The work they did as members of the artists’ groups Cercle et Carré and Abstraction-Création represent concrete and constructive approaches to abstraction. Viewing themselves as the antipole to Paris Surrealism, the artists promulgated a radical liberation from the object, and with it a completely autonomous, content-free use of shape and color.


Hans Arp was an unfailingly undogmatic, boundary-crossing mediator between the movements of his era, as evidenced by his involvement in the concrete-art groups while also exhibiting with the Surrealists. He transferred ideas from his poetry into the realm of visual art. The aleatory principle that he had tried out in his Dadaist poetry became the basis for the papiers déchirés he made out of scraps of hand-torn paper. The fundamental shape he called the “moving oval” shifted more and more clearly into the foreground, and it was only fitting that he would translate these “archetypal forms of aliveness” into three dimensions in the early 1930s, founding a new era in sculpture with his biomorphic plaster pieces. Arp’s sculptural works make clear that nature is not just the starting point for individual pieces, but the underlying principle of his entire artistic endeavor. What interested him was not representation, but rather natural processes such as germination and growth, as well as impermanence.

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