WOLFGANG PAALEN (1905-1959)
WOLFGANG PAALEN (1905-1959)
WOLFGANG PAALEN (1905-1959)
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WOLFGANG PAALEN (1905-1959)
14 More
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more MEMORY OF A SURREAL JOURNEY: PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA COLLECTION
WOLFGANG PAALEN (1905-1959)

Projét pour un monument

Details
WOLFGANG PAALEN (1905-1959)
Projét pour un monument
Tzalam "wild Tamarind" wood
height: 44 7/8 in. (114 cm.)
Carved in 1948, this work is unique
Provenance
The artist's studio, Mill Valley, until at least 1951.
Lucid Art Foundation, California.
Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco, on consignment from the above.
Acquired from the above by the present owners in 2012.
Literature
A. Neufert, Wolfgang Paalen, Im Inneren des Wals: Monografie - Schriften - Oevrekatalog, Vienna, 1999, no. 48.02, p. 323 (illustrated, p. 323; illustrated again in situ, pp. 142 & 198).
Exhibited
San Francisco, Gallery Wendi Norris, Wolfgang Paalen, Philosopher of the Possible, February - March 2014.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay


An artist and theorist, Wolfgang Paalen brought a richly imaginative and erudite interpretation of Surrealist aesthetics to bear on mid-century modernism across the Americas. Born in Vienna, Paalen studied and worked throughout Europe—Rome, Provence, Berlin—in the 1920s before settling in Paris by 1929 and becoming involved with the group Abstraction-Création. Emerging ethnographic interests, as well his marriage to the poet and painter Alice Rahon, brought Paalen into the orbit of Surrealism in the early 1930s. He contributed the technique of fumage, a method of drawing with the smoke of a candle, to the Surrealist repertoire and exhibited “poem-objects” and paintings in the major Surrealist Internationals between 1936 and 1939. In 1939, he and Rahon departed Europe for the Americas, spending three months along the Northwest Coast and then traveling to Mexico at the invitation of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Paalen settled permanently in Mexico, advancing Surrealist and ethnographic interests through DYN, an interdisciplinary avant-garde journal published in the early 1940s, and later founding the Dynaton group in San Francisco with Gordon Onslow Ford and Lee Mullican.

Projét pour un monument dates to Paalen’s sojourn in California (1948-51) and represents a rare sculptural object within his oeuvre. Like the earlier Projét pour un monument (1945), the present work is a model for a monument that Paalen wished to construct in Mexico City. Its elongated, open structure recalls contemporary ‘totemic’ sculptures by artists including the Cuban Agustín Cárdenas and the Abstract Expressionist David Smith. In his essay on ‘Totem Art,’ which appeared in the ‘Amerindian’ double issue of DYN, Paalen surveyed ‘totemism’ across the Americas, foregrounding the monumentality of Northwest Coast totem poles within a broader discussion of cross-cultural form, iconography, and mythology. In a preface that anticipated the works and writings of the New York School, for whom DYN was instructive, Paalen gestured toward the integration of science and ‘universal art,’ auguring an ‘indispensable world-consciousness’ in modern art ('Preface,' DYN, 4-5, December 1943, n.p.). ‘Man felt before he reasoned,’ Paalen explained. ‘The predominantly emotional approach anthropomorphises the relations between individual and world and expresses through personifications what we express through abstractions’ ('Totem Art,' DYN, 4-5, December 1943, p. 18). Like the ‘paysages totémiques,’ an earlier series of paintings, Projét pour un monument conveys an affective and vital abstraction, its curved, biomorphic structure suggestively totemic and cosmic in kind, piercing boundless and infinite space.

‘In my opinion, among all contemporary artists Wolfgang Paalen is the one who has incarnated most vigorously this way of seeing—of seeing around oneself and within oneself—and who alone has accepted the grave and far-reaching responsibility of translating this vision,’ wrote André Breton in 1950. ‘I believe that no more serious or more continuous effort has ever been made to apprehend the texture of the universe and make it perceptible to us’ (“A Man at the Junction of Two Highways,” Surrealism and Painting, Boston, 2002, pp. 138-39).

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