A Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art

By Ian Chilvers | Go to book overview

O

0.10 ('Zero-Ten'). See POUGNY.

object. A term applied to a type of three- dimensional work (generally fairly small) made up of any materials that take the artist's fancy and usually put together with some symbolic or ironic meaning. Works in this vein were produced by the *Dadaists, and the idea was anticipated to some extent by * Marinetti, who made a Self-portrait (Dynamic Collection of Objects) in 1914, but it was the *Surrealists who really cultivated the object. It is impossible to define the term with any great precision, and the Surrealists listed (or invented) various categories, many of which seem intended to mystify rather than clarify. They include the *objet trouvé and the *ready- made, both of which have a fairly clearly understood meaning, and also, for example, the 'poem-object' (invented by * Breton) and the 'symbolically functioning object' (invented by * Dalí). Sarane Alexandrian ( Surrealist Art, 1970) describes the poem-object as 'a kind of relief which incorporates objects in the words of a poetic declaration so as to form a homogeneous whole', whilst the symbolically functioning object 'expresses a repressed desire or allows a compensatory satisfaction of the libido. Dali made one consisting of a woman's shoe inside which was placed a glass of milk.' The most famous of all Surrealist objects is probably Meret *Oppenheim's Cup, Saucer and Spoon in Fur (MOMA, New York, 1936), also known simply as Object, which Alexandrian classifies as a 'dreamt object': 'According to Breton, this corresponds to "the need, inherent in the dream, to magnify and dramatize". It is a humble, familiar object, which by some caprice of desire is given a sumptuous appearance.'

Breton, inspired by a dream in which he had seen a curious book with wool pages, had first suggested creating such dream-objects in 1924. In December 1928 an advertisement in issue 8 of La *Révolution surréaliste announced a forthcoming exhibition of objects, but this never took place, and their heyday was the 1930s. The idea that they should form a distinctive category of art was promoted by Dali in an article entitled 'Objects surréalistes' in the third issue of Le Surréalisme au service de la révolution ( December 1931). He regarded the object as 'absolutely useless from the practical and rational point of view, created wholly for the purpose of materializing in a fetishistic way, with the maximum of tangible reality, ideas and fantasies having a delirious character'. The first group exhibition of Surrealist objects was held in 1936 at the Galerie Charles Ratton, Paris, followed in 1937 by 'Surrealist Objects and Poems' at the London Gallery (see MESENS). Discussing the London exhibition, Anna Gruetzner writes: 'The idea behind the surrealist object was essentially poetic. The surrealists regarded such objects as concrete manifestations of their dreams, secret fantasies and fears. They believed that an object was created through its discovery and that each object had a special animistic quality which made it a "modern" token or fetish and an expression of a primitive shared state of mind which the surrealists thought they had acquired once they had freed themselves from the conventions and inhibitions of their own society' (catalogue of the exhibition 'British Sculpture in the Twentieth Century', Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 1981). The British artists particularly associated with making objects include Eileen *Agar, Paul *Nash, and Roland *Penrose. An example by Penrose is Captain Cook's Last Voyage (Tate Gallery, London, 1936), featuring a nude female torso in painted plaster encased in a wire globe and set on a base incorporating part of a saw. Anna Gruetzner writes that 'Its message was that Captain Cook's last voyage would be an exploration of sexual love. The globe is a symbol of man's universal bond,

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A Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction vii
  • Abbreviations xiv
  • A 1
  • B 46
  • C 106
  • D 154
  • E 189
  • F 204
  • G 228
  • H 264
  • I 293
  • J 299
  • K 308
  • L 332
  • M 360
  • N 426
  • O 450
  • P 461
  • Q 502
  • R 503
  • S 540
  • T 605
  • U 626
  • V 631
  • W 646
  • X 663
  • Y 665
  • Z 667
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