César Baldaccini’s Directed Pink Expansion

Directed Expansion 1

“Directed Pink Expansion,” César Baldaccini, 1967, Plastic bin and polyurethane.

I’m back in Stockholm. I decide to take a peek at Moderna Museet. As always, it’s hosting a nice mix of works by pop artists. On the floor of one room is “Directed Pink Expansion.” I do not gasp at its beauty; but the work is arresting in many senses. The entire spilled thing looks messy and sticky; it disturbs and amuses me. I like to have things in order; nice and neat and tidy. Call the cleaners ASAP! But I don’t move on. I become aware of association of thought and emotion unusual in the cool confines of a prestigious gallery.

Directed Expansion 4

Even though I know the structure is made of hard polyurethane (for that is what the little sign says,) I want to poke this goo. An inner voice tells me that it is chewy, edible and maybe poisonous (or maybe all three!) The colour suggests caramel, tomato sauce or blood. Or maybe this is a bin of some awful all-invading toxic waste accidentally knocked over and now polluting the environment? How would the Ghostbusters deal with it?

César Baldaccini (1921-1998) remains a key figure in French contemporary sculpture. This is the guy who, in the early 1960s after visitng a car-crusher, famously exhibited cubes made of compressed cars at the Paris Exhibition. At the same time, he did a number of “expansions.” Wow! Fascinating links! Compression and expansion; pushing together and falling apart; filling and spilling; construction and destruction. Was César buzzing around the basic laws of physics about energy states and everything tending toward chaos? And why do I think of cleaners? Because what they do, in terms of physics, is expend energy to turn a tiny little bit of our chaos-destined universe back into order. I look again at Directed Pink Expansion. If universal laws of physics were in César’s head in 1967, there is something not quite right about the way the work is displayed here. It is on its own thin stage!

Directed Expansion

Photo copyright: César/BUS 2015

Only when I look on-line for other images of this work do I see how it is so much more powerful when displayed in direct contact with the floor. This allows the idea of a real spill, directed or not. If you come across it unexpectedly, you might just call the cleaners and then I bet good old César’s ghost would bust out a smile.

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