Collage No. 2, ca. 1913
©Alexander Archipenko, VEGAP. Madrid, 2021
© COLLECTIONS Fundación MAPFRE
Nueva York, 1964
Registration date: 2009
Origin: Archipenko Foundation N.Y./ Alexander Gray Associates, New york
Collage, graphite colored pencil
Dimensions of printed area: 32.5 x 24 cm (12 13/16 x 9 7/16 in.)
Cubist sculpture, usually done with wood, glass or ceramic materials and often polychromatic, raised different yet parallel problems to the ones inherent in painting. While the latter was concerned with the status of the picture plane and the reduction of three dimensions, sculpture focused its attention on the structure of mass and the conditions of gravity. Cubist sculptors confronted the
challenge of separating mass without succumbing to the force of gravity, weight and volume from different perspectives, although with nearly always similar results. Archipenko is no exception. In his case, the attempt to preserve a figurative verisimilitude that would enable recognizing motifs always prevailed.
Born in Kiev and a naturalized United States citizen, Alexander Archipenko traveled to Paris during the most intense period in the development of Cubism, settling in the French capital in 1908. In 1921, after the First World War, he went to Berlin, where he remained for two years, before later relocating to the United States.The time spent in Paris and his knowledge of the avant garde, then at its peak, influenced Archipenko’s work for the rest of his life.
Archipenko made sculptures, drawings and collages but was always a sculptor at heart, as Collage no. 2 makes clear. The forms, which outline an easily recognizable anthropomorphic framework, while floating in space, still possess mass and weight::the artist has represented volume through an elemental chiaroscuro that avoids any sensation of flatness, in contrast to other Cubist painters.Tension is created between the neutral space containing the forms and their movement. On top of this, additional tension is established in the form of color strokes that reconstruct the lost human figure, the one of the dancer — or the ballerina, to judge by the hollows of the torso— who lifts her arms above her head and moves her legs rhythmically like a puppet or a kite.
Archipenko’s artistic mastery allows him to keep the rhythm while “breaking apart” the body and offering only some of its parts, transformed now into independent geometric forms.We can well imagine the difficulty in expressing this image in sculpture, the challenge of joining disparate parts and maintaining rhythm and balance, deeply expressive features in <0>collage<1>.
As a rule,these works,collagesand drawings are regarded as preparatory works, research for future sculptures. And undoubtedly they are, as are, too, (research, experiments) the majority of Cubist sculptures. However, with the passage of time, we discover in collagesand drawings plastic qualities that make them autonomous pieces, works with value in themselves, that mark a period and present us with an aesthetic type in which other artists participate. Along with works by Henri Laurens, Fernand Léger and Jacques Lipchitz, Collage no. 2 is a good example ofthe tension between statism and movement, no less than the tension between the geometry of forms and the humanization at its origin.
This perspective opens new doors to our understanding and appreciation of these artists, creating the possibility of system of connections at the heart of the European avant garde immediately before and after the Great War, In addition to the artists mentioned above, this group includes Jean Arp, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Alexander Calder and, later, Jean Hélion and the concrete abstract artists.It seems necessary, then, to avoid rigid history of the avant garde based exclusively on the unilateral development of trends and movements (of “isms”). Instead, we would better off opting for the construction of a possible paradigm that explains both the interrelationship of artistic forms and the independence of their perception and appreciation.
Signed lower right corner
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