I remember a magnificent Masson exhibition at the old venue of the Musee de l’art Moderne / avenue Wilson in Paris. It was at the time i was living for 9 months in Paris and visited that museum frequently. They had the Brancusi Studio , which is now opposite the Centre Pompidou. I remember the Masson exhibition being different . I expected a kind of surrealism like the paintings by Dali and Magritte, instead i found paintings which were far more abstract and reminded me more like the ones i had seen by Miro. Here follows a short biography i copied from Wikipedia.
His early works display an interest in cubism. He later became associated with surrealism, and he was one of the most enthusiastic employers of automatic drawing, making a number of automatic works in pen and ink. Masson experimented with altered states of consciousness with artists such as Antonin Artaud, Michel Leiris, Joan Miró, Georges Bataille, Jean Dubuffet and Georges Malkine, who were neighbors of his studio in Paris.
From around 1926 he experimented by throwing sand and glue onto canvas and making oil paintings based around the shapes that formed. By the end of the 1920s, however, he was finding automatic drawing rather restricting, and he left the surrealist movement and turned instead to a more structured style, often producing works with a violent or erotic theme, and making a number of paintings in reaction to the Spanish Civil War (he associated once more with the surrealists at the end of the 1930s).
Under the German occupation of France during World War II, his work was condemned by the Nazis as degenerate. With the assistance of Varian Fry in Marseille, Masson escaped the Nazi regime on a ship to the French island of Martinique from where he went on to the United States. Upon arrival in New York City customs officials inspecting Masson’s luggage found a cache of his erotic drawings. Living in New Preston, Connecticut his work became an important influence on American abstract expressionists, such as Jackson Pollock. Following the war, he returned to France and settled in Aix-en-Provence where he painted a number of landscapes.
Masson drew the cover of the first issue of Georges Bataille’s review, Acéphale, in 1936, and participated in all its issues until 1939. His brother-in-law, the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, was the last private owner of Gustave Courbet’s provocative painting L’Origine du monde (The Origin of the World); Lacan asked Masson to paint a surrealist variant.
At the time i first laid my hands on a publication by Ian Wilson published in the section series . I really thought …..absolutely crazy….however when you read what the van Abbemuseum writes on the publications of Ian Wilson, you see the logic and when you see the logic you notice that every publication is a work of art by itself. I really do not know how many of these “Section” books were published, but for sure i know of 3 i had in my collection ( 2 i still have). There was the art &project publication. ( only 4 pages, but highly collectable) and the section 30 by the van Abbemuseum and the one i made for the Gemeentemuseum in the time Rudi Fuchs was director of the museum. The section 43 was published in an edition of 500 copies. Only 10 or so were sold and the main part of the edition was destroyed at the time the depots of the museum had to relocate because of the renovation in 1996. So my guess is only about 50 have survived what makes this one of the scarcest Ian Wilson publications. Please look at them at www.ftn-books.com
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This is what the van Abbemuseum writes about Ian Wilson:
At first, Wilsons artistic explorations took place entirely in the monochrome. He was absorbed by questions relating to perception and painting. This is aptly illustrated by the nameless object of fibreglass and white pigment (1967) recently purchased by the Van Abbemuseum. In it, he created a slight convex curvature atop a circular surface. When hung on the wall at eye level, this ‘disc’ is so subtle that it does not cast any shadows. The fibreglass object presents the perceptive viewer with an ambiguous scene – sometimes it simulates a cavity in the wall, only to pop out of it again a moment later. His last physical objects, ‘Circle on the Floor’ and ‘Circle on the Wall’, were created in early 1968. Almost completely stripped of any material substance, these works are circles consisting only of outlines drawn in chalk and pencil, respectively. Using Wilsons meticulous instructions, the circles can be reproduced for use in any exhibition.
After some time, Wilson realised that it was no longer necessary to create an object in order to realise a concept. Wilson: ‘I found that I could think or say the circle just as well, that I didn’t need to draw it in order to convey the idea I was exploring.’ The movement towards dematerialisation was a widespread tendency among artists in the 1960s. Language predominated as the means of achieving this, and artists employed it in various ways to stimulate a mental process inside the ‘viewer’ of the work.
Wilson exploits the fact that language can be used to conjure up an image or explain a concept. Forming a mental image of a ‘cube’ requires a simple thought process – the concept of ‘infinity’, on the other hand, represents a higher level of linguistic abstraction. In his text entitled ‘Conceptual Art’ (1984), he says: ‘Language is the most formless means of expression. Its capacity to describe concepts without physical or visual references carries us into an advanced state of abstraction.’ In 2002 he explained that ‘by means of language you can grasp the non-visual world.’ By letting go of material objects and continuing his artistic exploration in the realm of the spoken word, he was able to make the transition from visual abstraction to non-visual abstraction.
Initially, Wilsons verbal work was of an informal nature, taking place on the street, at random exhibition openings or in people’s homes. It was in this manner that he presented his work ‘Time’: the word in its spoken form. A deeper discussion on the subject of ‘time’ also emerged. In 1969, Wilson shifted his field of exploration to the medium itself – ‘oral communication as art form’ – and in 1970 was invited to present ‘Oral Communication’ in Europe.
Over the course of the 1970s, his discussions took on a more formal character, and his interests shifted towards ‘The Known and Unknown’, based on Plato’s ‘The Parmenides’. In contrast to a ‘performance’, during a discussion the audience can actively take part in realising the concept of ‘oral communication’. Wilson does not want the discussion to be recorded either on film or audio. He is interested in the concentrated moment in which ideas emerge and are formulated in language. What remains after the discussion is a subjective and unstable thought in the minds of those present. Wilson summarises the core of these discussions in a book series entitled ‘section’.
From 1970 onwards, his discussions were announced using cards, which served as invitations informing the addressee of where Wilson would be and when. Purchases of works were confirmed by a certificate containing a printed and signed declaration by the artist, stating that a discussion had taken place on that date. Wilson had specific ideas concerning the formulation and layout of both the invitation cards and the certificates. These purchase certificates and invitations cards were the only material remnants of the discussion.
In 1986, Wilson stopped holding discussions and concentrated on printed language. From the late 1980s onward, unique series of his artists’ books began to appear, such as ‘The Set of 25 Sections: 90-114, with Absolute Knowledge’ shown here, from 1993. Partially due to renewed interest in Wilson’s spoken works, he started group discussions again in 1999, which to date have focused on the subject of ‘The Absolute’.
Artist/ Author: Oliver Boberg
Title : Memorial
Publisher: Oliver Boberg
Measurements: Frame measures 51 x 42 cm. original C print is 35 x 25 cm.
signed by Oliver Boberg in pen and numbered 14/20 from an edition of 20