Art@Site Cesar Baldaccini Le Pouce

Cesar Baldaccini


Le Pouce

Esplanade, La Defense
An artwork that raises questions
Pouce (‘thumb’) by Cesar Baldaccini is a literally an artwork: the sculpture is a wrinkled and curved thumb. The work has the color of earth. It seems like there has been working in the earth. Do I see a allouse on the side? In La Défense there is a particularly large version of the artwork: maybe 65 feet high. It could be left or a right thumb.
It’s hard to find indications for a possible interpretation of the work. With a raised thumb 'approval' or 'encouragement' could be expressed. The form could refer to a phallus.
What would the artist like to say with this work? The artwork is in an environment with business people. With a business person the association of working in the earth doesn’t come directly. The fact that the artwork is particularly large could suggest criticism or cynicism.
Pouce by Cesar Baldaccini is a work of art that raises questions to me after my analysis.
By Theo,

Een kunstwerk dat vragen oproept
Pouce (‘duim’) van Cesar Baldaccini is een letterlijk kunstwerk: het beeldt een gerimpelde en gebogen duim uit. Het werk heeft de kleur van aarde. Het lijkt of er in de aarde is gewerkt. Zie ik een eeltlaag aan de zijkant? In La Défence staat een bijzonder grote versie van het kunstwerk: misschien 20 meter hoog. Het zou een linker- of een rechterduim kunnen zijn.
Er zijn weinig aanknopingspunten voor een mogelijke interpretatie van het werk. Met een opgestoken duim kan men ‘goedkeuring’ of ‘aanmoediging’ uitdrukken. De vorm zou kunnen verwijzen naar een fallus.
Wat zou de kunstenaar willen zeggen met dit werk? Het kunstwerk staat in omgeving met zakenmensen. Bij een zakenmens ligt voor mij een associatie met werken in de aarde niet voor de hand. Het feit dat het kunstwerk bijzonder groot is, zou kunnen duiden op kritiek of cynisme.
Pouce van Cesar Baldaccini is een kunstwerk dat voor mij vragen oproept na mijn analyse.
By Theo,
Amongst the blur of towering glass skyscrapers, immaculately kept shops and cafes, glossy black cars, people rushing around in suits and everything else one expects to find in a financial district, an 18-ton sculpture of a thumb is bound to stick out – literally.
Leave it to Paris to install a mammoth avant-garde sculpture in the middle of a straightlaced corporate park. Visitors passing through La Defense, Paris' largest business sector, may not be expecting to find oddball displays of art, but that's exactly what this park delivers. Standing over 40 feet tall and weighing more than 18 tons, "Le Pouce, " or"The Thumb" was built in 1965 by sculptor Cesar Baldaccini.
Cesar was well known for his emphasis on resizing and reshaping objects synonymous with modernity. Cesar's relationship with technology was mutually beneficial, even as it might have seemed antagonistic. Crushing automobiles and other scrap metal or recreating objects of nature with industrial materials were common themes.
Perhaps his most famous work came in the form of"expansions" of his own hands – his thumb and fingerprints, particularly. Using modern construction methodology, Cesar took a mold of his thumb and created several absurdly enlarged versions of it, which can now be seen in parks and museums around the world. Undoubtedly the most famous of these is this gargantuan expansion in La Defense.
Standing in stark contrast to its polished, corporate surroundings, Cesar's thumb is discolored and ruddy, containing all of the imperfections that natural forms do. Perhaps it was not his intention to provide a counterbalance to the glossy veil of corporate ambition projected by a purpose-built business park, but that's the beauty of art – it does whatever it wants.
Cesar Baldaccini was a French sculptor, born in 1921 of Italian parents from Tuscany in the working-class neighbourhood of la Belle-de-Mai in Marseilles. His father was a cooper and bar owner. His full name was Cesar Baldaccini, but he is usually known simply as Cesar. After studying at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Marseilles (1935-9) he went on to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris (1943-8). He began making sculptures by welding together pieces of scrap metal in 1952 and first made his reputation with solid welded sculptures of insects, various kinds of animals, nudes, etc. His first one-man exhibition was at the Galerie Lucien Durand, Paris, 1954.
His early work used soldered and welded metal as well as junk materials, and by 1960 Cesar was considered one of France's leading sculptors. In that year, on a visit to a scrap merchant in search of metal, he saw a hydraulic crushing machine in operation, and decided to experiment with it in his sculpture. He astonished his followers by showing three crushed cars at a Paris exhibition. It was for these 'Compressions' that Cesar became renowned. Cesar selected particular cars for crushing, mixing elements from differently coloured vehicles. In this way he could control the surface pattern and colour scheme of the piece.
Later the same year he joined the Nouveaux Realistes (New Realists) - Arman, Klein, Raysse, Tinguely, Pierre Restany and others who found their inspiration in urban life.
In 1965, he started to work with plastics, first with plastic moulds of human imprints, then from 1966 by pouring expanded polyurethane, which was allowed to expand and solidify. He gave up making welded-metal sculpture in 1966 and organised a series of Happenings from 1967-1970, in which he produced expansions in the presence of an audience. His later works also included sculptures made out of molten crystal.