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Constellation

1932
Jean (Hans) Arp, French (born Germany), 1886 - 1966

The notion of constellation was critical to Jean Arp’s artistic imagination. This word also identifies both the subject matter and the method of composition used in an important series of his artworks of the early 1930s. The Constellations are reliefs in rectangular formats with simplified, gently curving shapes lacking any internal structure. Arp drew these shapes on paper or cardboard, then passed the templates to a skilled carpenter to cut in wood using a bandsaw—a method that put the artist’s own emotive contribution at a remove and resulted in a smooth, anonymous touch. Arp then arranged those chunky wooden forms to evoke celestial bodies floating in arbitrary configurations. The monochrome white palette gives them an appropriately ethereal presence

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Object Details
Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), Paris; sold to Louise Arensberg (1879-1953) and Walter C. Arensberg (1878-1954), Los Angeles, 1937 [1]; gift to PMA, 1950.1. See letter from Duchamp to Arensbergs, September 8, 1951 (PMA Arensberg Archives, CA Use Tax file), stating that he sold them the work from his private collection. A series of letters from Galka Scheyer in Hollywood to Hans Arp in 1933-1934 discuss a relief referred to only as "Configuration in White" or "das weisse Relief" purchased by the Arensbergs through Scheyer. Since "Constellation" is the only work by Arp in the Arensberg collection as bequeathed to the PMA in 1950, either the Arensbergs acquired a different work of his and subsequently sold or traded it, or Duchamp was mistaken and "Constellation" was purchased through Scheyer in 1933.

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