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Vase--Bust

1930
Jean (Hans) Arp, French (born Germany), 1886 - 1966

Vase-Bust came at the end of Jean Arp’s 1920s series of painted wood reliefs that combine images of everyday objects with body parts (such as navels, lips, and torsos) into stylized object-pictures. The artist arranged these shape-shifting forms in unexpected combinations. His deeper purpose was to counteract conventional logic and reason, which he rejected as the source of human pretension and vanity. Arp’s titles similarly group words in unexpected connections, though they still provide clues to meaning. Here the title encourages us to see the larger asymmetrical element swelling at the sides and tapering at the bottom as the flattened rendering of a vase. This was a form that Arp often rhymed with the female body. The two bulbous elements then read as signs for breasts, and the relief sculpture can be seen as a lyrical, distilled presentation of femininity and perhaps fertility as well.

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Object Details
Purchased from the artist by Albert Eugene Gallatin (1881-1952), New York, summer 1933 [1]; gift to PMA, 1947.1. See Gail Stavitsky, The Development, Institutionalization, and Impact of the A. E. Gallatin Collection of Modern Art [Ph. D. diss., New York University], 1990, v. 1, p. 248, and v. 6, p. 4. The acquisition was announced in a Gallery of Living Art press release, December 9, 1933.

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