César was born César Baldaccini, in Marseilles, France, in 1921. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Marseilles from 1935 to 1939 and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1943 to 1948. In a career lasting nearly five-decades César had countless gallery exhibitions and major museum retrospectives, including one as part of the Venice Biennale in 1995 and another at the Jeu de Paume in Paris in 1997. César is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Modern in London, Centre Pompidou in Paris, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Korea, and numerous other public and private collections. César died in Paris in 1998.
Spending his entire career in Paris, César was among the most prolific of European artists that did not adopt New York as their post-war home. A maverick of materials, César pioneered sculptural applications for scrap-metal, car bodies, plastics, and later molten crystal. A member of the artist collective Nouveau Réalisme, the artist was a central fixture in a group founded on the principle desire to relink art and life in the burgeoning age of mass-production. His earliest sculptures from the early 1950s were fashioned from welded bits of scrap-metal, and quickly developed a following for their interpretive, brutalist depictions of insects, animals, nudes and other biology. In the ‘60s, and for the remainder of his career, the artist began utilizing a compressor to crush automobiles into dense packet-like rectangles, tactics for which he received great praise. César found his work to be contrary to his classical education and instead related it to the world of factory labor and reclaimed materials. In the mid-60s César adopted plastics, making figural molds, and later pouring them with polyurethane which would expand and solidify. A fixture of latter twentieth century art practices, César used the ready-made as a springboard into unknown realms of sculptural investigation through the properties of materials and their yet-unknown uses.
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César (César Baldaccini)
Untitled (from the Bonjour Max Ernst portfolio)