César (1921-1998)
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César (1921-1998)

Compression of copper wire

César (1921-1998)
Compression of copper wire
copper wire
14 x 6¼ x 6¼in. (36 x 16 x 16cm.)
Executed in 1966
Galerie Mathias Fels, Paris.
Collection Patrice Trigano, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1992.
F. Pluchart, '10 ans après la fête', in Combat, 2 November 1970 (illustrated, pp. 8-9).
P. Restany, César, Paris 1975, no. 99 (illustrated, p. 127).
P. Restany, César, Paris 1988, (illustrated, p. 208).
P. Restany, 'A Rare Collection in Israel', in: Cimaise, revue de l'art actuel, no. 246, April-May 1997 (illustrated, unpaged).
Paris, Galerie Mathias Fels, Compressions, 1969 (illustrated on the cover of the exhibition catalogue).
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Lot Essay

This work is registered at the Archives Denyse Durand-Ruel under no. 641 and will be included in the forthcoming César catalogue raisonné being prepared by Denyse Durand-Ruel, Paris.

In Compression of Copper Wire, executed in 1966, gleaming strands of copper have been assembled to form a strange metallic monolith. They have been compressed together, they are presented in bulk, and in this way the viewer is forced to confront the glistening beauty of so prosaic a matter as copper wire. An industrial material has been granted an apotheosis by César, and is now shown as a treasure in its own right. The formal rectangular appearance of this copper Compression celebrates the metal while also, as befits César's position in the Nouveau Réaliste movement, taking something from the real world and repackaging it in a manner that demands our reconsideration of our assumptions about it.

César had initially caused scandal when he presented several compressions at the Salon de Mai in 1960. Some of these works were the product of an industrial crushing device and were, in short, cubes formed from the compression of an entire car. Despite the outcry that these works were met by, the claims that they were an affront to the legacy of art, an insult to the Salon, its participants and its viewers, they are in fact marked by a clear aesthetic appreciation, and this sense of the aesthetic potential of compressions and accumulations only increased over the following half decade. In his essay for the exhibition catalogue for the first César Compressions show-- held at the Galerie Mathias Fels in Paris in late 1969 and featuring Compression of Copper Wire on its cover-- Pierre Restany, the guru of Nouveau Réalisme, stated:

'It was only five years after his gesture at the Salon de Mai that César had entirely assimilated his instinct from it, had extracted the complete lesson: that to discover a new stage in the development of material is to place oneself at the extreme limits of a sensibility and of a vision. It is to reach a point of no return, a limit-position, a situation of general expressivity that overlooks the entirety of the problem of language' (P. Restany, César Compressions, exh.cat., Paris, 1969, unpaged).

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