From “Journal d’un critique d’art désabusé” (2009 – 2011) by Michel Ragon, published by Éditions Albin Michel, Paris, 2013 (version originale followed by translation)

ragonView of the room dedicated to the tastes of Michel Ragon as part of the “Passeurs” raccrochage  of the Centre Pompidou’s permanent collection in 2015. In the front plan: “Nuit ouvrante, 1945-55,” sculpture, Etienne-Martin. Tilleul wood, oak, and pine. Purchased by the State, 1961. Photo: Philippe Migeat, Centre Pompidou. Courtesy Service Presse / Centre Pompidou. From article first published on the Arts Voyager.

6 novembre, 2010

J’ai mis du temps pour aller visiter la rétrospective Arman à Beaubourg. Mais je sors peu et les musées me fatiguent vite. Pas les musées, en réalité, mais la gesticulation des visiteurs, leur va-et-vient qui risquent de me faire tomber, malgré ma canne que peu de gens semblent remarquer.

Cette petite rétrospective Arman est impeccable. L’anecdote des «accumulations» s’estompe derrière la rigueur de la démarche et l’esthétique parfait. Oui, bien sur, certaines accumulations sont plus  humoristiques que plastiques (les masques à gaz), mais même en accumulant des pièces d’automobile Renault, Arman réussit à produire une sorte de sculpture minimaliste parfaite.

On n’a pas assez insisté sur la dimension picturale des œuvres d’Arman, que l’artiste souligne dans ses dernières créations qui donnent une alternative au dripping de Pollack. Les petits tubes de peinture, écrasés, avec de subtiles couleurs, ont une dimension picturale évidente.

Une longue interview d’Arman diffusée dans les salles. Intelligence et précision dans les propos qui me font penser au discours de Soulages. Même l’accent du Sud amplifie la ressemblance. Sûreté de soi, certitude de l’originalité de son œuvre, précisions historiques incontestables. (Les anecdotes sur la fondation du Nouveau Réalisme et quelques coups de patte tendres à Pierre Restany.)

Translation by  Paul Ben-Itzak:

November 6, 2010

It took me some time to get around to visiting the Arman retrospective at Beaubourg. But I venture out so rarely, and museums quickly tire me out. Not the museums in and of themselves, in reality, but the gesticulating of the visitors, the hurly-burly of their comings and goings which risks to send me tumbling down, despite my cane, which few people seem to notice.

This little Arman retrospective is impeccable. The anecdotal quality of the “accumulations” fades in the face of the rigor of his process and his pure aesthetic. Yes of course, some of the accumulations are more humorous than plastic (the gas masks), but even in accumulating pieces of Renault automobiles, Arman has succeeded in producing a sort of perfect minimalist sculpture.

What’s often been under-rated in Arman’s work is its pictorial dimension, which the artist underlines in his latest work, which presents an alternative to dripping à la Pollack. The small crushed paint tubes, with their subtle colors, have an obvious pictorial dimension.

A recording of a long interview with Arman plays in the exhibition halls. There’s an intelligence and precision in his observations which reminds me of the discourses of Soulages. Even his Southern accent amplifies this resemblance. Self-confidence, a conviction in the originality of his oeuvre, the incontestability of his precise historic references.  (The anecdotes on the founding of the New Realism and some tender kicks towards Pierre Restany.)

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