Arman was a French-born American artist. He was a painter who moved from using the objects as paintbrushes to using them as the painting itself. He is best known for his "accumulations" and destruction/recomposition of objects.
Arman's father, Antonio Fernandez, an antiques dealer in Nice, was also an amateur artist, photographer, and cellist. From his father, Arman learned oil painting and photography. After receiving his bachelor's degree in philosophy and mathematics in 1946, he began studying at the École Nationale des Arts Décoratifs in Nice. He also started judo where he met Yves Klein and Claude Pascal. Completing his studies in 1949, Arman enrolled as a student at the École du Louvre in Paris. In 1951, he became a teacher at the Bushido Kai Judo Club in Madrid. During this time he also served in the French military, completing his tour of duty as a medical orderly during the Indo-China War.
Early on, it was apparent that Arman's concept of the accumulation of vast quantities of the same objects was to remain a significant component of his art. Inspired by an exhibition for the German Dadaist, Kurt Schwitters, in 1954, Arman began working on "Cachets," his first major artistic undertaking. These stamps on paper and fabric proved a success and provided an important change of course for the young artist's career. At the time, Arman chose to change his name from Armand to Arman.
From 1959 to 1962, Arman developed his most recognizable style, beginning with his two most renowned concepts: "Accumulation" and "Poubelle" (French for "trash bin"). Accumulations were collections of common and identical objects which he arranged in polyester castings or within Plexiglas cases. His first welded accumulations were created in 1962. The "Poubelles" were collections of strewn refuse.
In 1960, he filled the Galerie Iris Clert in Paris with garbage, creating "Le Plein" ("Full Up") as a counterpoint of the exhibition called "Le Vide" at the same gallery two years earlier by his friend Yves Klein. These works began to garner the attention of the European art community.
In October 1960, Arman, Yves Klein, François Dufrêne, Raymond Hains, Martial Raysse, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely and Jacques Villeglé, and art critic and philosopher Pierre Restany founded the Nouveau réalisme group. Joined later by Cesar, Mimmo Rotella, Niki de Saint Phalle, and Christo, the group of young artists defined themselves as bearing in common their "new perspective approaches of reality." They were reassessing the concept of art and the artist for a 20th-century consumer society by reasserting the humanistic ideals in the face of industrial expansion.
In 1961, Arman made his debut in the United States, the country which was to become his second home. During this period, he explored creation via destruction. The "Coupes" and the "Colères" featured sliced, burned, or smashed objects arranged on canvas, often using objects with a strong "identity" such as musical instruments (mainly violins and saxophones) or bronze statues. Fascinated with the scene in New York, Arman took up part-time residency there In the city, he met Marcel Duchamp. He began work on large public sculptures.
Arman married electronic music composer Eliane Radigue and had two daughters and one son. In 1971, he married Corice Canton, with whom he had one daughter and one son, Philippe. In 1989, he had his sixth and last child, Yves Cesar Arman, son of Carrole Cesar. After Arman's death in New York in 2005, part of his ashes were buried at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris in 2008.
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