JEAN DUBUFFET (1901-1985)
JEAN DUBUFFET (1901-1985)
JEAN DUBUFFET (1901-1985)
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JEAN DUBUFFET (1901-1985)
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Ivan & Genevieve Reitman: A Life in Pictures
JEAN DUBUFFET (1901-1985)

Arbre biplan (Version 1)

Details
JEAN DUBUFFET (1901-1985)
Arbre biplan (Version 1)
incised with the artist's initials, title, number and date 'Arbre biplan (Version 1) 1968-2020 2⁄3 J.D.' (lower edge)
epoxy paint on polyurethane
180 x 153 x 119 in. (457.2 x 388.6 x 302.3 cm.)
Conceived in 1968 and executed in 2020. This work is number two from an edition of three.
Provenance
Pace Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2020
Literature
M. Loreau, ed., Catalogue des Travaux de Jean Dubuffet, Fascicule XXIV: Tour aux Figures, Amoncellements, Cabinet Logologique, Lausanne, 1973, p. 100, no. 92 (original model illustrated).

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Lot Essay

Jean Dubuffet’s Arbre biplan (Version 1) is a towering example of the artist’s ability to render sculpture and painting in striking and revolutionary ways. By doing so, he elicited a new reaction from his audience that allowed for both a reassessment of their physical surroundings, in addition to their relationship with art at large. The present work is an imposing example of Dubuffet’s turn toward monumental sculpture that occurred during the latter part of his career. Its arboreal forms presage those of the iconic Group of Four Trees (1972) which sprout from the pavement between Nassau Street and Pine Street in Manhattan’s Financial District. Like that shady copse, Arbre biplan is also rendered in black lines and white planes, its surface strewn with bold, smooth marks that both accentuate and confuse the edges of the sculptural forms. The central trunk is a maze of even markings that meander seemingly without purpose up and down its sides. Two-thirds of the up, a horizontal plane emerges from one side like a massive shelf. The edges are defined in black and the surfaces are covered in the same wandering lines. At the top, another heart-shaped plane acts as the uppermost plane and continues the organic illusion that flits somewhere between a cartoon forest and a calcified topiary.

Sculptural forms like the present example emerged from Dubuffet’s rich painting practice as he began to give real life to his two-dimensional works. Early on, his use of nontraditional materials and textured surfaces was at odds with the smooth oil paints of his predecessors. As he progressed, this examination of what painting could be became a driving force for the artist. The principles of Art Brut, of which Dubuffet was the main proponent, reveled in a certain rawness and even a perceived ugliness to some Western eyes. To this, the antagonistic painter declared: "For most western people, there are objects that are beautiful and others that are ugly; there are beautiful people and ugly people, beautiful places and ugly ones. But not for me. Beauty does not enter into the picture for me. I consider the western notion of beauty completely erroneous. I absolutely refuse to accept the idea that there are ugly people and ugly objects. Such an idea strikes me as stifling and revolting" (J. Dubuffet, "Anticultural Positions", 1951, quoted in M. Glimcher (ed.), Jean Dubuffet: Towards an Alternative Reality, New York, 1987, p. 129). Not content to work within the limitations of categorically accepted beauty standards championed by the long tradition of Western art, Dubuffet rebelled wholeheartedly. Even his sporadically changing oeuvre reflects this need for pictorial insurgency as he continuously grew and developed as an artist so as to keep the audience on their toes.

It is clear that the legacy of artists like Piet Mondrian and Paul Klee is intertwined in Dubuffet’s deconstruction of the picture plane and the way he examines the world from various angles. Turning and twisting his doodles in preparation for their commitment to canvas or sculptural substrate, the lines began to form an illusionistic depth that purposefully confused the dimensionality of the final piece. With the Hourloupe series, this codified mutation of form was fully realized. The former Guggenheim director Thomas M. Messer wrote in 1986 that “Hourloupe [is] arguably the most radical structural reinterpretation since Cubism” (T. M. Messer, Jean Dubuffet and Art Brut, exh. cat., Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, 1986, p. 24). Indeed, the mixture of automatic drawing and bold, calligraphic lines was so different from anything being produced at the time that Dubuffet’s pieces may have come as a shock to the audience and critics alike. Though he was clearly aware of the innovations being made by the American Pop artists and the Abstract Expressionists in New York during the mid-century, the highly individual French artist nonetheless stuck to his personal visual vocabulary in an attempt to diverge from the mainstream.

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