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Jean Dubuffet’s work is marked by a rebellious attitude toward prevailing notions of high culture, beauty, and good taste. He began making art at age 41. The next four decades were tremendously prolific: he wrote poetry and theoretical texts, played jazz, experimented widely with art-making materials and techniques, and worked in many mediums, including painting, drawing, printmaking, large-scale outdoor sculpture, and what he called “animated painting”—works bridging painting, sculpture, dance, and theater, and featuring live performers.
Though he was an academically trained painter Dubuffet maintained what he called in a 1951 lecture an “anticultural position.” He advocated for “instinct, passion, mood, violence, madness” rather than analysis and reason, as well as closer proximity to nature and natural forms and the discarding of traditional notions of beauty. “Look at what lies at your feet!” he once said. “A crack in the ground, sparkling gravel, a tuft of grass, some crushed debris offer equally worthy subjects for your applause and admiration.” Such values were embodied in what Dubuffet termed Art Brut, produced on the margins by children, outsider and folk artists, and the institutionalized.
His achievements as the original Art Brut spokesperson is arguably the most essential of all his contributions to this world of images and words, and his 1946 book "Asphyxiating Culture" is the beautifully written foundation of all that. Largely avoiding the tedious "outsider" debate, he points out where it all went wrong, and why the concept of "culture" itself is indeed asphyxiating the very notions of what makes creation valuable and worthwhile.
He proclaims that we need to remember that for each supposed exemplary cultural product of the past, there were another hundred other products which were overlooked, any of which could have easily found its way into the gallery or museum rather than the product which actually did if the arbitrary tastes of the ‘experts’ had been ever so slightly different. The concept of value, in the artistic sense, is the thing that Dubuffet takes aim at. He says that value is a kind of collective illusion, founded on entirely arbitrary bases by a self-serving cadre of critics, academics and governmental cultural workers, with this false notion succeeding in dazzling everyone who encounters it.
"What culture lacks is the taste for anonymous, innumerable germination. Culture is smitten with counting and measuring; it feels out of place and uncomfortable with the innumerable; its efforts tend, on the contrary, to limit the numbers in all domains; it tries to count on its fingers."
Dubuffet’s "Coucou Bazar" was performed for the first time in New York from May to July 1973 at the Guggenheim Museum. A second version was produced the following September as part of the Festival d'Automne de Paris to accompany the retrospective in the Galeries Nationales de Grand Palais. In both these versions music was composed by Turkish musician Ilhan Mimaroglu. A third version was performed in Turin in 1978 and this time various recordings and musical experiments by Dubuffet himself were employed as its soundtrack.
The animated painting is the grand conclusion of Dubuffet's Hourloupe cycle. The Hourloupe decorations started with doodling with red, black and blue ball-point pens. These configurations were employed for the set and setting - defined by Dubuffet as the "practicables" - and for the costumes as well. The practicables were made from panels of klégécell (a sort of wood), layered in resin and painted with a coat of vinyl acrylic. Some practicables were mounted on wheels or animated by machinery, others were operated by hand.
The costumes worn by the actors included masks, hats, robes, gloves and boots made in diverse materials - from painted rayon and cotton to epoxy resin, latex, and starched tarlatan. As the dancers moved, they gave life to the painting, creating infinite series of combinations and transforming the painting from a static representation into a real and movable landscape. Viewers therefore became part of this parallel fantasy, of this strange wonderland populated by surreal objects and creatures.
Gundam is a Japanese science fiction series created by Yoshiyuki Tomino and Sunrise that features giant robots (mecha) with the name "Gundam". From the first episode of Mobile Suit Gundam, the template was set. The young and immature teen Amuro Ray climbed into the cockpit of a giant robot—a technologically advanced weapon of war—and took off to become the show’s hero. Along the way he met the devious Char Aznable, discovered psychic abilities as a Newtype, and grew up on the battlefield as he watched friends die, space colonies drop, and autocracies fall.
A lesson that’s crucial to understanding Gundamis that every series, from the bleakest drama to the silliest side story, is deeply and enthusiastically anti-war. Always, conflict is portrayed as a tragic waste of time, resources, and human lives which stems from Tomino's thoughts on Japan's actions in World War II and its imperialism.
What makes us human?
How will technology change us?
Where can we help the marginalized and the oppressed?
What do we do about the oppressors we know—or the ones we don’t know?
How can we better understand each other?
That last question has been asked in one way or another in practically every Gundam series since the first one debuted on April 7, 1979.
Though this 40-year-old multimedia franchise of anime films, OVAs, TV series, manga, Gunpla model kits, light novels, physical giant robots, and more, focuses on the fictive ways war might play out in a future of space colonies, overpopulation, and an evolving human race, the questions its characters face are timeless.