gas masks in a wooden box
Galerie Lawrence, Paris
Eliane Radigue, Paris
Schniewind Collection, Germany (acquired during the early 1970s)
New York, Cordier-Warren Gallery, Arman, 1961
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Arman, 1964, no. 2, illustrated
Krefeld, Museum Haus Lange, Arman, 1965
Cologne, Museen der Stadt, Westkunst, Zeitgenössische Kunst seit 1939, 1981, p. 439, no. 574
"Arman at the Cordier-Warren Gallery", in: Art International VI/I, 1962, illustrated
G.R. Swenson, "Arman and Esthetic Change", in: Quadrum 17, 1964, illustrated
Pierre Restany, Les Nouveaux Réalistes, Nice 1982, illustrated
Denyse Durand-Ruel, Arman: Catalogue Raisonné, Vol. II 1960-1962, Turin 1991, p. 45, no. 87, illustrated
Home Sweet Home II is one of Arman’s earliest and most important accumulations from 1960, a dramatic momento mori of the fragility of life and horrors of warfare. It is one of three works that he created on this theme, one of which is in the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the other is in the Collection of Pierre and Marianne Nahon.
Of all the symbols of 20th century conflict, the gas mask more than any other is cloaked with the fear of immediate danger, and Arman here arouses our deepest anxieties and natural instincts of immediate threat. Arman’s belief that society feeds its sense of security with a strong pack instinct is sublimely illustrated by the sea of expressionless yet inherently human masks. Crowded together on top of each other in this sealed box vitrine as if fighting for air, we are witness to a scene of toxic intensity and ongoing horror that unites our fears of the past and present simultaneously.
Arman belonged to a generation of artists whose lives had been saturated by and raised on the violence of World War II. His accumulations encourage us to see the world we inhabit in a way that future archaeologists will: existentialist investigations of the material and emotional identities of life’s objects that might otherwise be ignored. It is ultimately this familiarity with the objects, the superlative expression of art mirroring life that makes his accumulations so physically and mentally commanding. They offer evidence of man’s natural desire to hoard and sort: something Arman can remember doing since his early childhood.
Presented frontally like a painting, the combined expressive power of identical objects en masse shows an inherent grasp of formal idiosyncrasy, selecting objects that had both a strong identity and a capacity for representation. The irony of the title Home Sweet Home II combined with the gas masks lends to the work a powerful sense of pathos that is unrivalled in Arman’s oeuvre. The contradictory range of emotions that Arman awakens in the viewer sees the immediate horror of the gas masks balanced by a sense of humanity and sympathy, and ultimately hope.
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