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Exhibition at Galerie Alexis Pentcheff marks the 20th anniversary of César's death
César Baldaccini, Compression, circa 1970. Car body compression, signed, 28x28x7cm.

MARSEILLE.- After the institutional retrospective at Centre Pompidou in Paris led by Bernard Blistène, the Alexis Pentcheff gallery is presenting an exhibition dedicated to the artist in Marseille, his home city. This event pays tribute to one of the greatest sculptors of his time on the 20th anniversary of his death.

This event gathers more than fifty original works of art, including some of his finest sculptures and combustions on paper, but also drawings, sketches and historical documents. Therefore, the aim of the show is to offer a whole overview of César’s creative process and artistic career. All of the works come from private collections and are on sale at the gallery, some of them presented for the first time to the public.

César is an artist of his time, highly attentive to his social, political and technological environment. His work is also greatly inspired by Picasso, Gonzalez, Duchamp and Giacometti. Hence, there is a genuine ambiguity between classicism and modernity in Cesar’s artistic approach which creates constant anachronisms. Pierre Restany, a well-known art critic, highlights precisely this duality between “homo faber” (man who makes) and “homo ludens” (man who plays) and thus illustrates this essential aspect of the sculptor’s work.

Not only has César shaken up the art world, he also left an everlasting art legacy to the following generation. While the artist points out mass consumption and massive industrialisation through diverse techniques, the material and the substance exalt.

From his zoomorphic and anthropomorphic works using the arc welding technique, to his famous Compressions, Expansions, and his Empreintes Humaines, a dialogue of contradictions is articulated and built from a thought that is relentlessly moving. Throughout his career, the artist has invariably reinvented himself to serve his practice. Imbued with a subtle poetry, his work finds its roots from his radical actions and continue to exert a remarkable influence on the contemporary scene.

This exhibition is the result of a very long reflection on César’s body of work and a genuine desire to build a retrospective in Marseille. With this exclusive selection of works for sale, the gallery Alexis Pentcheff suggests to rediscover the silent force of his Compression, the audacity of his Expansions, the lyricism of his Fers soudés, the poetry of his paper combustion, the spontaneity of his pencil stroke and the subtlety of his Portraits of Compressions, in the city where everything began.

César Baldaccini, better known as César, was born in Marseille in 1921 in the Belle-de-Mai district. He first attends the School of Fine Arts in Marseille and then the National School of Fine Arts in Paris until 1948.

Trained in traditional techniques of sculpture, the artist begins to use recycled materials for economic reasons. Later, he will say: «Carrara marble was too expensive, old scrap iron was everywhere. I became a sculptor because I was poor!».

In 1948, César discovers the technique of the autogenous welding. From 1949, the sculptor starts making zoomorphic and anthropomorphic works in Provence, essentially composed of metal sheets, plaster and wire.

In 1954, Lucien Durand Gallery presents the first solo exhibition dedicated to the artist in Paris. On this occasion, he displays his now-famous «Poisson», a monumental work of 3.40 meters long, which will be subsequently bought by the Musée National d’Art Monderne. With this innovative sculpture, the artist wins the «Collabo» Prize at the National School of Fine Arts in Paris. That same year, he sets up his workshop within the metal furniture factory of Villetaneuse.

While visiting a breaker’s yard in Gennevilliers in 1958, César discovers the hydraulic press. He is then captivated by the power of this American machine capable of reducing a car to the shape of a cube. This discovery represents a turning point in his artistic career from which he makes his first Compression, largely inspired by Duchamp’s «ready-mades”. In this series, César uses people’s daily life objects and puts a blunt light on mass consumption and industrialisation.

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