Los Angeles

Hans Jean Arp

Everett Ellin Gallery

Hans Arp, now between seventy and eighty years old, has held his place in the front row of avant­-garde artists since 1915. This means that he is blessed with eternal youth, one of the few human beings who gains maturity and seriousness without losing the natural creative approach of his be­ginnings.

The approximately 25 sculptures as­sembled in the Everett Ellin Gallery give a cross-section of Arp’s tremendous oeuvre in small pieces of five to twen­ty-six inches in height. There is a great deal to be said in praise of small selec­tive exhibits, such as this, both in num­ber of works and in size. One is not over­whelmed and confused by masses; one can converse with each sculpture in­dividually, while seeing it with one glance in the context of earlier and later works. This entire show is in propor­tion to the dimensions of the Gallery, selected in purposeful limitation. Arp himself, from his earliest beginnings, is a master of self limitation. He has shown the strength of character to ex­clude variety in the name of intensity and utmost consistency. Michel Seu­phor, comparing Arp and Mondrian, calls both “the most consequent Quintessentialists, each seeking to distill the world to the last essence.” Mondrian arrived at the square, Arp at an undulating line, a line of life and organic growth. One is reminded of Hogarth, who thought that all problems of art were solved, when he had found the “line of beauty,” an undulating S-line. However, Hogarth in his time, used it to interpret literary subject matter of significance, while Arp’s line swings freely, creating pure and significant form, and nothing but form. His line and his forms grow na­turally, without convulsion and torture, in contrast to the contemporary expres­sionists. Arp’s organic form has had a tremendous influence on the art of his generation; it inspired Miró, Calder, Schwitters and many others. It was imi­tated and repeated even in decorations and on tabletops. Arp develops his basic idea to full plastic volume. His sur­faces have a perfect finish, a delight to touch. The shining bronze offers its surface to the light; wood presents its finest texture; one enjoys the neat eli­mination of brushwork on the painted reliefs. Nothing is sketchy or accidental. Some of the sculptures have poetic ti­tles, reminiscent of their primary source, which was a visual impression: Siren, Coquille Nuage, Bud of Tears, Val­lier dans le Foret.

One should not forget that Arp is a poet, not less than a sculptor. As a poet he is fantastic and lyrical, with a tre­mendous sense of humor. Hans Richter painted him, rising from behind a cloud. From this viewpoint Arp mirrors this fool­ish world, often in anti-logical associa­tions. His literary talent first surprised the Swiss Dadaists in Zurich in 1917, when in defiance of convention and bourgeois triviality he challenged rea­son with flowering nonsense. Hans Rich­ter remembers that at the same time Arp filled hundreds of sheets with ab­stract lines, derived from trees, leaves, flowers and insects. When he had to paint a backdrop for a Dada perform­ance his uninhibited line ran, without preliminary sketches, flawlessly over enormous rolls of paper. Arp’s life and work give us the happy discovery of a man who never sways on his road, moving forward without flaw along his own organic line. The Everett Ellin show, presenting Arp’s work of many periods and in many media in small but elabo­rate pieces, proves that it is a way towards perfection.

––Kate T. Steinitz