- Expansion Jaune
- polyurethane foam and plastic
Munich, Modern Art Museum, Sammlung Gunter Sachs, 1967
Leipzig, Museum der Bildenden Künste, Gunter Sachs, 2008, p. 60, illustrated in colour
Exhibition Catalogue, Hamburg, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Gunter Sachs - Retrospektive, 2003, n.p., illustrated in colour
Gunter Sachs, Mein Leben, Munich 2005, p. 384, illustrated in colour
"I start out with an idea that is inside me, a nothing and I venture out to the point where I find myself confronted with a thing that is alien to me. It is precisely this that makes it reality. It is detached from me, it exists in its matter, its content, its space. A sculpture had to possess its space" The artist cited in: Ingo F. Walter, Ed., Art of the Twentieth Century, London 2000, p. 519
The work of César occupies an important place within the Gunter Sachs Collection: while representing among the very incipient of the Nouveau Réalistes to be assimilated into his burgeoning collection, César was significantly the first artist with whom Sachs became friends. Accompanied by Yves Klein and Arman, Sachs and César would meet for lunch on an almost daily basis at the Brasserie La Coupole. Indeed, the Coupole became the very epicentre of Sachs' involvement in the Parisian avant-garde; it was here, in the company of César and the Nouveau Réalistes, that Sachs' perspicuity as a collector was nurtured and refined.
In 1967 Gunter Sachs took on Presidency of the Museum of Modern Art, Munich: this was celebrated with the first public exhibition of Sachs' remarkable collection ever to take place. On the night of the Private View, César - sculptor, prominent proponent of Nouveau Realism and friend to Gunter Sachs - orchestrated a performance of his new body of work Les Expansions. In an atmosphere evocative of Yves Klein's seminal monochrome performances in Paris at Galerie Iris Clert ten years earlier, César, suited, gloved and surrounded by a captivated audience, harnessed the expanding properties of molten polyurethane for his remarkable happening. During the course of the evening, César poured liquid plastic from coloured buckets onto the gallery floor; upon contact with the air the swollen liquid expanses instantly cooled into polished, solid surfaces. Exuding a lyricism of quantitive mechanics, the works produced that night affirmed César's pioneering and poetic awareness of the expressive potentiality afforded by synthetic materials and chemical reactions.
Following César's happening at the MAM opening, the present Expansion Jaune was installed in Sachs' legendary Pop-Art concept apartment in the tower of the Palace Hotel in St. Moritz. Dramatically positioned in the entrance hall of his flamboyant home, the arresting pool of bright yellow substance led a flowing path towards the central Salon. Here, the striking conflation of oozing yellow matter against the bright green vessel from where the polyurethane liquid was expended, confers a magnificent formalism that conflates César's Nouveau Realist attachment with a distinctly Surrealist Pop aesthetic.
In 1961 César was inaugurated into Nouveau Réalisme: devised by the eminent critic Pierre Restany, the movement had formed during the previous year in Yves Klein's apartment. Alongside Restany and Klein, Jean Tinguely, Arman, and Daniel Spoerri among others, committed to an artistic philosophy centred on a direct appropriation of reality as a means of bringing life and art into closer proximity. Six years later, César's Expansion exhibits a continuation of Pierre Restany's fundamental concept of 'adventure of the object' propounded in the Nouveau Realist manifesto. César's own statement illustrates this point: "I start out with an idea that is inside me, a nothing and I venture out to the point where I find myself confronted with a thing that is alien to me. It is precisely this that makes it reality. It is detached from me, it exists in its matter, its content, its space. A sculpture had to possess its space" (the artist cited in: Ingo F. Walter, Ed., Art of the Twentieth Century, London 2000, p. 519). As spectacularly manifest in the present work, the organic profusion of hardened polyurethane forcefully possesses its spatial environment. Embodying the resultant vestige of César's ephemeral happening, Expansions Jaune incites a fascinating dialogue between the agency of the artist and the chemically reactive autonomy of the artwork itself.
Initiated during the very same year this work was created in 1967, the Expansions present a thematic counterpart to the series of work that in the early 1960s first brought César critical attention and acclaim: the Compressions. Where the Expansions implement a dialogue that actively possesses and steadily encroaches upon three-dimensional space, the Compressions delivered a conversely opposing force in compacting automobiles and substantial quantities of metal into densely packed cubic bales. César's pivotal discovery of polyurethane and its theatrically metamorphic material properties sparked a peripatetic programme of public sculpture-performances. Present at many of César's polyurethane happenings, Pierre Restany charted a programme of Expansions that took him from Paris to Sweden and Munich, to London and Rome: "The world's most celebrated modern art museums are proud today to boast expansions by César among their collections. These mounds of brightly coloured solid foam have the definitive beauty of organically free forms, and their occupation of space is the pure and simple result of a chemical process carried to completion..." Restany continues, "César established himself as the modern demigod of polyurethane, the inspired pioneer of industrial chemistry" (Pierre Restany, 'César and the poetry of industrial chemistry', Domas, Vol. 462, August 1968, n.p.).