Centre Pompidou, Paris

MUSÉE NATIONAL D'ART MODERNE - CENTRE GEORGE POMPIDOU | Place Georges-Pompidou
F-75004 Paris

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press release

If Martial Raysse is asked what led him to become an artist, his taste for language and poetic feeling becomes immediately obvious. Why did he choose literature, then abandon that path for a career as a self-taught artist? Because painting is a universal language. Because the call of life expressed itself more powerfully in the realm of painting. Though over two hundred works – paintings sculptures, films, photographs and drawings, the Centre Pompidou is devoting a completely new retrospective to the work of this visionary artist, on the margin of dominant artistic trends, who has followed his unpredictable, singular path throughout nearly 50 years of creation. He says nothing about his bent for art, except that it expressed itself early on, very naturally. Nice was then the spawning ground for a new generation of artists, and he rapidly joined them. Ben, Arman and Yves Klein stood out with work that made a complete break with the informal abstraction of the post-war period. From the Marseille born César, he borrowed the practice of combining scrap elements, which he transformed into airy works inspired by Calder.

He met Ben and Arman in 1955, and discovered their shared interest for experimentation. He himself developed rapidly: while assemblage was the technique he preferred, while he shared Arman's liking for collection and classification, and while Ben's idea of the "store" interested him, he opted for a category of objects and an artistic enunciation that were different. "I wanted a new, pure, sanitised world, and as regards the techniques used, one in direct line with the technological discoveries of the modern world," he said. And so consumer objects became his preferred materials from 1959. He assembled them in boxes and plexiglass columns, or according to an organisation model similar to advertising displays. The beach and summer leisure activities played a key role, as did the female body and its accessories.

In 1960, Raysse and his friends joined the New Realist movement created by the critic Pierre Restany. While the irreverent aspect and fraternal dynamic of the movement attracted him, he took an individual stance, and adopted a generic term to define his position: "the hygiene of vision". As he said, "I use manufactured products because I am a Doctor of Materials, and the art of today speculates on the instinct of preservation and the awareness of cellular decay. Only what is new is sanitised: the hygienic, the stainless."

Curator : Mnam/Cci, Catherine Grenier