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View of “César: An Anthology by Jean Nouvel.”


“César Baldaccini: An Anthology by Jean Nouvel”

Fondation Cartier Pour l'Art Contemporain
261 boulevard Raspail
July 8–October 26

In homage to their shared history with César Baldaccini, the Fondation Cartier and the architect Jean Nouvel have collaborated to produce a loosely retrospective show marking the tenth anniversary of the sculptor’s death. Showcasing nearly one hundred pieces that fit into four discrete modes, the exhibition demonstrates the visceral relationship César, who went by his first name, had with industrial materials, the properties of which often determine the work’s formal qualities.

Visible through the breathtakingly transparent museum designed by Nouvel, César’s brightly colored, whimsical sculptures in the “Empreintes Humaines” (Human Prints) and “Expansions” series complement the subtlety and lightness of the museum’s glass structure. Using pantographic enlargements made from casts, César produced oversize thumbs, hands, and breasts in a variety of colors and materials, installed on the museum’s walls and floors and on pedestals both inside and outside the building. Works like Sein (Breast), 1966, made in translucent orange polyester resin, and the bronze Pouce (Thumb), 1980, meld the playful and the monumental. Starting in 1967, César began layering and meddling with the flows of polyurethane foam, creating what he called “Expansions.” While pieces like Expansion no. 32, 1971, are smooth and white, molded to drape or ooze over surfaces, others are brown and grainy, revealing fissures that have hardened to produce uneven surfaces. A small selection from the series “Fers-Animaux Imaginaires” (“Imaginary Iron Animals”), early whimsical zoomorphic sculptures made from welded iron, is on view near the main entrance.

Although deliberately named in opposition to “Expansions,” “Compressions” similarly allows material to dictate form. From 1960 to 1998, César used a hydraulic pump to transform cars into art objects, in works like Suite Milanaise, 1998, a rainbow of fifteen Fiats compressed into metal blocks roughly three feet high, each painted a different colorful monochrome finish. While these “Compressions” impede and direct the viewer’s movements, other pieces are hung on the wall like abstract paintings, demonstrating, even through the works’ installation, César’s interest in the intersection of material and process.