Paris Post War: Art and existentialism 1945-55

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These are cheap materials, vulgar in the reference of the great academies' handground ideals; they go with sand, pebbles, dust, bundles of rags, a rough day's work, then a beer at a bar. And to Dubuffet this is philosophically as well as technically, appropriate - although he is no great beer drinker, but a connoisseur of French petits vins and of coffee and Scotch whisky in America. His preferred stage is the bar and the bistro, not the ballet or the theatre. He rejects the impositions and pretentions of culture; the differentiation beween the 'beautiful' and the 'ugly' the 'artistic' and the 'ordinary'. Yet this is not a basically contemptuous or patronising attitude -like that of so much 'socially conscious' art in which all the lower classes must be visibly loved and pitied. Dubuffet rejects that distinction as well, and feels free to like or dislike the appearance of the Bowery bum staggering beneath his window. His 'vulgar' materials are eminently suited to his needs, and

the fact that an RA would despise them only makes them more suitable.

From 'Dubuffet Paints a Picture' by Thomas B Hess, in Art News (New York) May 1952

Paris Post War: Art and Existentialism 1945-55 at the Tate Gallery until 5 September. Sponsored by the Independent and supported by the French Embassy in London.

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