As an emblematic example of Ustensiles Utopique, the present work takes its place alongside the depictions of teacups, bottles, chairs, stoves, and faucets that had been his focus since 1964. Each work in the series follows a consistent compositional structure: the object, abstractly rendered in an interlocking jigsaw of reds, blues, whites, and Breton stripes, is placed on a stark black background that is devoid of any potential signifiers of time and place. Dubuffet’s amorphous compositions lavished attention upon overlooked quotidian objects with the same uninhibited sense of childlike wonder that had driven his earliest fascination with Art Brut. Under the guise of l’Hourloupe, banal manufactured objects become sites of “utopia,” visionary reappraisals of the formerly unstudied paraphernalia of daily existence. Thus Ciseaux I is, in many ways, the culmination of Dubuffet’s artistic ambitions: a new unschooled visual language, deployed to translate the raw essence of everyday life.
Compressed into two dimensions and starkly highlighted within a flat black background, Dubuffet’s unassuming scissors are elevated from a common ordinary object to a metamorphic curiosity that takes on a splendor of its own. Like his American contemporaries Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, Roy Lichtenstein, and Robert Rauschenberg, Dubuffet chose to celebrate the beauty of the banal, defamiliarizing ubiquitous objects to create bold artistic interpretations. With Ciseaux I and the rest of the Ustensiles Utopiques, Dubuffet completely redefined the traditional genre of still life, ushering in a new brand of French Pop art.
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