Studio Visit: Jean Dubuffet’s “Volcanic Eruptions” in New York City

Alexander Liberman, Jean Dubuffet in 1952 on a working visit to New York City, 1952 (138.1990)

Alexander Liberman, Jean Dubuffet, New York City, 1952 (150.1990)

Alexander Liberman, Jean Dubuffet, New York City, 1952 (145.1990)

Alexander Liberman, Jean Dubuffet, New York City, 1952 (153.1990)

Alexander Liberman, Jean Dubuffet in action, using plastics on wood. Duffet abandoned traditional tools and made movement and speed participate in the creation of his paintings, New York City, 1952 (179.1990)

In November 1951 Jean Dubuffet (1901–1985) lived and worked in New York City for six months.
From the Jean Dubuffet Foundation‘s website:
1901 Jean Dubuffet is born on the 31 July to a wine merchant family in Le Havre.
1942 Decides to devote himself entirely to painting and from now on will not cease to paint.
1951 In November he leaves for New York with Lili where he stays for six months.
1985 Jean Dubuffet dies in Paris on the 12 May.

The origin of pictorial vocations is mysterious and varied. Jean Dubuffet was a wine dealer, then a maker of theatrical masks. He assaults the concept of beauty with the violence of a primitive. A compulsive belief that truth can be found in untrained vision makes him investigate the arts of the innocent – children, savages, madmen, and the unconscious everyday artists who scribble on walls. The outpourings of instinct, however distorted, are the undecoded messages from man’s inner yearnings.
It is hard to penetrate Dubuffet’s shell of self-protection from everyday life; he knowingly shelters his inner dreams. He looks like a being who could have lived untold years ago. With something of a medium’s power Dubuffet links in his art the far-distant past with the unseen – to all but him – future. He has broken more violently with the conventions of traditional easel painting than any painter I have photographed. I watched him throw sand, or gravel, into amorphous mixtures smeared over a plaster board. With a knife, trowel, rag, or his hand, he shaped the lavalike flows of earth color until he finally brought them to a stop. I marveled at the amount of stored-up skill he summoned to fix the fleeting images that seemed to well up like volcanic eruptions.
Alexander Liberman, The Artist In His Studio, 1988, p. 268

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