I want to take a minute to explain what I’ve been looking at and thinking about lately, that is, the works of the French Nouveau Realists – which is to say the group of Tinguely, St Phalle, Arman, Sporreri, Ceasar, Christo, &c. in and around the late 50’s and early 60’s. One of the methods of Nouveau Realism was the use of real objects in and of the world in the making of art. While Duchamp proposed the idea of the ordinary object elevated to the level of Art by the choice of the artist, he only produced a few banal examples. It was in the works of the Nouveau Realists that this idea was brought to fruition with beauty. It is, after all, pointless to propose revolution in art if it does not result in beauty.
I say “1961” because it seems to me a pivotal year for Western culture. It marks the change from abstraction in art to the sequential popular art movements of the 60’s which continue to this day, the rise of Rock and Roll culture which has supplanted the (revolutionary) role of the artist with that of the star, and television’s spectator culture which created the audience for it.
The inversion of “61” gives 1919, roughly the year Duchamp quit readymades, and, 1961 is fifty years ago from today.
At this time also, was the “concrete” movement in music and film. I think of Xenakis, Robert Breer, and especially of Stan Brakhage. Concrete elements in art are acquired from the real world, and are not related to abstract elements which are Platonic distillations of real elements, or expressionistic elements, which are emotional subjective representations.
I think some creative people of that time were trying very hard to be in and of the real world, fully engaged in the experience of it, and making in artworks which themselves were real-world things, objective, and not responsive or interpretative.
The reader may be helped in his understanding by exploring these links: