Configuration with Two Dangerous Points

Jean (Hans) Arp, French (born Germany), 1886 - 1966

Geography:
Made in France, Europe

Date:
c. 1930

Medium:
Painted wood

Dimensions:
27 1/2 x 33 1/2 inches (69.8 x 85.1 cm)

Copyright:
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Curatorial Department:
Modern Art

Object Location:

* Gallery 169, Modern and Contemporary Art, first floor

Accession Number:
1947-88-3

Credit Line:
A. E. Gallatin Collection, 1947

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Label:
Inspired by the notion of chance as an animating force, Arp exploited the possibilities of the random in his “constellations,” a group of relief sculptures he made in Paris in the 1930s. One of the earliest in the group, this work is composed of four white and two black elements shaped like jigsaw puzzle pieces. With a twist that is typical of Arp’s humor, the title purposely contradicts the soft rhythms of the composition.

Additional information:
  • PublicationTwentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Marcel Duchamp once credited Jean Arp with showing "the importance of a smile to combat the sophistic theories of the moment."1 The Swiss-born artist, who began his career in Zurich during World War I as a member of Dada, indeed reacted against the pessimism of the time by incorporating lighthearted innocence into his own iconoclastic art. Throughout his life, Arp, who lived and worked in Switzerland, France, and Germany, refused to be identified with any single philosophy of art or any single medium. However, the painted wood reliefs he first made in Zurich, a group of brightly colored, layered, plantlike forms resembling children's puzzles, were a genre he returned to periodically during his career. Infatuated with the notion of chance as a natural, animating force, he exploited the possibilities of the random and the uncanny in his "constellations," a group of primarily black-and-white relief sculptures he made in Paris in the 1930s.

    One of the earliest of the group, Configuration with Two Dangerous Points shows the formal elegance Arp achieved in works that took inspiration from organic processes and shapes found in nature to evolve a more austere abstract aesthetic. The sculpture is composed of four white amoeboid shapes, one punctured with two holes, affixed to a surface painted with two similar black biomorphic forms. Its format is reminiscent of a game board arrayed with playing pieces. The artist's devotion to models of play to generate art and poetry extends to the humorously provocative title, which does not describe what we see and purposely contradicts the sensibility projected by this harmonious composition of rounded, rhyming, organic forms. Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000), p. 62.

    Note:
    1) Marcel Duchamp, Marcel Duchamp, Criticavit; quoted in Salt Seller: The Writings of Marcel Duchamp (Marchand du sel), edited by Michel Sanouillet and Elmer Peterson (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), p. 144.

Provenance

A. E. Gallatin, New York, acquired from the artist or a Paris gallery, summer 1934 [1]; gift to PMA, 1947. 1. See Arp letter of July 23, 1934: "j'ai reprie le relief de la galerie car je l'ai du repeindre entièrement. J'avertirai Chenu [presumably the shipping company of that name] qu'il vienne le prendre chez moi. J'ai fait faire une nouvelle photographie de votre relief" (Gallatin Papers, New-York Historical Society, microfilm, reel 1, frame 5). Gallatin acquired most of his works by Arp directly from the artist.


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