ARP, Jean/Hans

Strasbourg, Bas-Rhin 1887 - Basel, Switzerland 1966

Constellation aux cinq formes blanches et deux noires

Variation I: Constellation with Five White and Two Black Forms


painted wood


Dimensions (HxWxD): 23 316 x 29 916 x 1 12 in.

verso: Arp

Acc. No.: 53.213

Credit Line: Museum Purchase

Photo credit: Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art, Utica, NY.


  • 1953, Museum Purchase


  • Museum's website (accessed December 19, 2018)


  • Label text by Margherita Andreotti, 2005, Museum's website (accessed December 19, 2018):
    Arp used the term "constellation" to describe clusters, groupings, and the interplay of forms in nature. He recalled: "I limited myself to arranging, on the water's edge, some pebbles with which I composed what could be called constellations .…" Like pebbles and stones, the contours of the forms in this relief seem to have been blunted and smoothed by the action of the elements.
    Variation I is the second in a series of four versions based on the rearrangement of the same seven shapes. At the time, Arp was creating works in the round that were free from a fixed orientation. These were three-dimensional shapes that could be self-supporting when placed, at the whim of the viewer, in several different orientations. In the series of reliefs to which Variation I belongs, the sense of freedom from a fixed orientation is instead explored by creating a sequence of works in which the same shapes are affixed to their background in a different relation to each other. This approach may be an extension of Arp's interest in nature, as it enhances associations between his forms and objects in nature-leaves, branches, pebbles, stones, clouds, shells, seeds-that are likewise free from a fixed orientation.