Jean (Hans) Arp was an artist associated with Dada, Surrealism, and abstraction, creating innovative works that evoke natural forms without directly imitating nature. In a series of essays published in 1948, Arp wrote “I love nature, but not its substitutes.” His work is consistently informed by natural elements without ever being representational.
Born of a French mother and German father, Arp entered the scene as a proponent of Zürich Dada in 1916 and participated in exhibitions of the Surrealists in the 1920s. He went on to carve out his unique place in the history of art through the development of a sculptural mode he called “concrete art.” Arp’s facility in a range of media has made him one of modernism’s most versatile artists.
Jean Arp: Nature Without Measure provides a comprehensive overview of Arp’s multifaceted output, bringing together the thirteen works by the artist in The Hyde’s permanent collection. On view are collages and other works on paper created, in Arp’s terminology, “according to the laws of chance”—where, based on the precepts of psychoanalysis that informed Surrealism, he drew or arranged paper fragments following the dictates of his unconscious. Also on view are works of sculpture typical of Arp’s concrete art: forms that have seemingly organic or human attitudes and postures while being fundamentally abstract.
Werner Feibes and James Schmitt, whose gift of 160 works of art to The Hyde comprises a substantial portion of the museum’s modernist collection, avidly collected the work of Jean Arp. Two woodcuts in the exhibition are from the Murray Collection, another important repository of modern art at The Hyde.