Antoine Pevsner (1886-1962)
Antoine Pevsner (1886-1962)

Deux cônes dans un même plan

Antoine Pevsner (1886-1962)
Deux cônes dans un même plan
signed with the initials 'A.P.' (lower left on the central conical element) and inscribed '36' (lower right on the central conical element)
painted copper and brass
15 5/8 x 25 x 14 3/4 in. (39.9 x 63.5 x 37.5 cm.)
Executed circa 1939; this work is unique
The artist's collection, until at least 1961.
Carlos R. Villanueva, Caracas, by whom acquired from the above, by 1972.
Private collection.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2007.
P. Peissi, Antoine Pevsner, Hommage d'un ami, Neuchâtel, 1961, no. 80, p. 150 (illustrated n.p.; dated '1936').
A. Lardera, Antoine Pevsner, sa vie, son oeuvre, Paris, 1992 (illustrated fig. 50, n.p.).
M. Ménier, 'Aux pieds de la tour Eiffel...', in Pevsner (1884-1962), Colloque international Antoine Pevsner, Paris, 1992, p. 77 (illustrated p. 63).
É. Lebon & P. Brullé, Antoine Pevsner, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre sculpté, Paris, 2002, no. 46, p. 126 (illustrated p. 127).
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Antoine Pevsner, Georges Vantongerloo, Max Bill, October - November 1949, no. 15, n.p. (with incorrect dimensions).
Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Antoine Pevsner, December 1956 - March 1957, no. 32, p. 19.
Caracas, Museo de Bellas Artes, Colección Carlos Raúl Villanueva, 1972, no. 41, n.p. (illustrated n.p.; dated '1936').
Caracas, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Villanueva el arquitecto, November 1988 - February 1989.

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Keith Gill
Keith Gill

Lot Essay

Deux cônes dans un même plan (Two Cones on the Same Plane) is one of the finest of an important series of relief sculptures that Antoine Pevsner made in Paris at the height of his career in the mid to late-1930s. Comprised almost entirely of an undulating sequence of radiating metallic rods articulating simple geometric shapes into an angular and near-symmetrical play of solid and open form, this magnificent and imposing sculpture is one that has fused the properties of line, geometry and space into a monumental-looking, even architectonic articulation of constructed form and open space. It is an outstanding example of the Constructivist logic of Pevsner’s work, which the artist, in partnership and dialogue with his brother Naum Gabo, had painstakingly formulated throughout the 1920s and early 1930s.

The unique language of Pevsner’s sculpture had grown out of the Cubist painting he had made during the First World War, to become, under the influence of his brother, what is now known as ‘Constructivism’, during the pioneering years of revolution in Russia and afterwards in their lives in exile in Berlin and Paris. Together through the 1920s Gabo and Pevsner worked upon and developed their own ‘Constructivist’ aesthetic more or less in tandem with one another. While Gabo’s work tended towards a pure, elegant and clear expression of the principles he had laid down in his ‘Realist Manifesto’ of 1920, often making use of transparent and open form, Pevsner’s work, by contrast, gravitated towards a more material expression of solidity and monumentality. While Gabo’s vision remains pristine, consistent and unchanging throughout his career, it was only in the 1930s, when the younger, more precocious, Gabo was living in England and Pevsner was, for the first time gaining fame in Paris, that the older brother’s work reached its full maturity and began to develop its own unique style.

As a work like Deux cônes dans un même plan, demonstrates, Pevsner’s sculpture of the 1930s makes dramatic use of solid, metal rods radiating and intersecting with one another to express and articulate an idealized and conceptual sense of form and space. It is also a rare example in Modernist art of a wall-relief. Long before the progressions of Donald Judd for example, this work is employing the same, simple language of geometry, function and self-assertive openness that was to be adopted by Judd, Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre and others in the 1960s. As such it is a work that both anticipates and lays the foundations for much of the so-called Minimalist art and the revolutionary optimism towards a new language of form championed in that decade. As Herbert Read was to write of Pevsner and Gabo’s ‘Constructivism’ in his essay for their joint exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1948, ‘There is no imprecision of visual language in a construction by Gabo or Pevsner: every piece has the absolute clarity of a Euclidean theorem. The development of both artists, during the past twenty-five years, is towards an increasingly exact equivalence of vision and expression. The experimental is gradually eliminated and anything in the nature of suggestive improvisation rigorously excluded. But in each artist there is also a development towards what I can only call an increasingly “poetic” vision…The bronze and copper constructions of Pevsner in particular often have the substantial richness of the bronze of Ancient China. In addition, these works of art have what is so generally lacking in modern works of art – monumentality… Much – perhaps most – of the art that is specifically “modern” is in the nature of a protestation: it is not decadent art, but it is a negative reaction to the decadence of our civilization, particularly to the defunct academic traditions of that civilization. But the art of Antoine Pevsner and of Naum Gabo is positive and prophetic, and it looks beyond the immediate convulsions of our epoch to a time when a new culture based on an affirmative vision of life will need and will call into being an art commensurate with its grandeur’ (H. Read, Constructivism: The Art of Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner, exh. cat., New York, 1948, p. 13).

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