Frances Archipenko Gray has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
At the forefront of sculptural innovation, Archipenko began making multi-material constructions, the earliest of which, Medrano (1912; destroyed in World War I) parallel Pablo Picasso’s experimentations with papier collé and wood assemblages. Marcel Duchamp recalled this invention, “…he [Archipenko] showed immediately his strong personality by introducing an entirely new conception of sculpture. He gave the name ‘Sculpto-Peintures’ to reliefs generally made of plaster, carved and painted” (quoted in op. cit., 1968, p. 37).
Woman with Fan at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art is Archipenko’s earliest surviving sculpto-painting (fig. 1). In this seminal work, the artist combines diverse materials and objects: burlap and linen are glued onto a wooden support; sheet metal and pieces of readymade objects such as a metal funnel, a wooden shelf and a glass bottle, whose materiality is disguised by paint, are affixed to it. The glass bottle is used for the figure’s neck and a metal sheet folded into a cone for the torso.
Assemblage would form the basis of later Dada and Surrealist objects. In the 1950s and 1960s assemblage was widely used by American artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenerg, who further developed the concept into his “combine,” a hybrid form of painting and sculpture that integrates humble materials, found images and paint to bridge the gap between the pictorial and the external worlds (fig. 2).
Archipenko translated several of his sculpto-paintings into polychromed bronze, including Woman with Fan. The present work is the artist’s most ambitious bronze relief, polychromed with an extraordinary range of fired chemical patinas. Concrete three-dimensionality, including real light and shade, and illusionary, painted volumosity are combined. The torso and fan are raised from their background to such an extent that the forms appear to be freestanding. The colors employed create a further illusion of depth, freeing the objects from the plane of the relief. Dynamic, acute angles and triangulations, the contrast in surface textures, the machine-like design precision and the overall cut-out edge of the background all contribute to a constant tension within the flat plane of the relief.