‘Expansion Table’, 1977
LAST WEEK, AS their gallery in New York remained closed, Demisch Danant launched an online exhibition, Hidden Treasures, to highlight some of the extraordinary pieces they have discovered over the last 20 years. Our eye was caught by this astonishing table by French sculptor, César. It might not be conventionally beautiful, but it is undoubtedly arresting. It is both sculptural and playful, a Pop-art piece of furniture. It is one of just a handful of functional pieces the artist made in the 1970s, works he considered to be part of his sculptural practice.
César Baldaccini was born in 1921 to Italian parents in Marseille. He studied art in Marseille and then Paris, where he met Pablo Picasso and the French sculptor, Germaine Richier, who both influenced his early work. In 1960, however, he saw a hydraulic car crusher at work. Inspired by the ideas of French Nouveau Réalisme, shared with artists such as Yves Klein and Arman, which directed artists to make work in tune with urban, consumer society, he began a series of sculptures constructed from compacted vehicles and discarded metal. If he is most famous for these “Compressions”, however, another significant strand is his “Expansions”. Seizing upon the new plastic material, liquid polyurethane foam, he would organise “happenings” around sculptural spills of the material in the late 1960s. He was fascinated by how the foam took on a life of its own, expanding according to its own laws to several times its original size, and quite outside the usual constraints of a mould.
It is this sense of freedom and excitement that this table, cast in bronze, still communicates, with its sensuous, almost animate support, spreading, like still-molten lava, and representing a specific process in time – an intersection of physics and imagination.
Demisch Danant Hidden Treasures – exhibition highlighting a selection of very special works, explaining why Demisch Danant acquired them, and bringing their narratives and distinctive characteristics to the foreground.