arp, human concretion, 1935


This sculpture is one of a series that are typical of the early stages of the Surrealist career of Hans Arp.  These sculptures are composed of plaster and left unpainted and their natural white color.  In his early Surrealist works, Arp moves toward complete abstraction and away from any type of rigidity of structure or form and went to an abstraction of lines and forms.  This particular concreation, the title given by Arp to his series of plaster sculptures, from 1935 shows an extremely abstract form that could be construed as a human body curled into the fetal position.  This body is a symbol for the new birth of an entire society.

The protrusion at the far left of the sculpture is the head of the figure and is shown in a slightly elevated position.  The head lacks a fully developed circular shape, and melts seamlessly into the rest of the body with only a small separation to serve as the neck.  The head also lacks the humanizing elements of a facial structure or any development of features.  Through the abstraction of these personal qualities, Arp reinforces the idea that this is a rebirth of a society and a culture and not of an individual.  This rebirth is of a form that could be molded by the individual into their personal ideal of what was truth.

The other distinguishable characteristic is an arm, shown extending upwards in the foreground of the sculpture.  This arm is depicted not motionless by the side of the figure, but rather reaching upwards, portraying a sense of movement.  The figure is reaching up, and out in front of its body.  This action demonstrates a major difference between the goals of the Surrealist movement, and many of its contemporaries.  Many other movements of the time sought a return to the classics, and the reinforcement of patriotic views.  This work, however, shows a figure reaching forward for something new, combined with the lack of identity provided by the lack of a face or distinguishing colors the work gives the image of a dream like figure emerging from a separate realm of consciousness.[1]  Surrealist played with this idea of the connection between the “concrete” world and that of dreams and the subconscious.  It is this blurred line between real and unreal that is brought out in the title “Concreations”, this word combines the words concrete and creations, serving as a metaphor for the connections between the subconscious and the conscious.  

This type of sculpture marks a sharp turn in the style of Arp.  His previous sculptures from the Dada era were either wood reliefs or collages.  The use of plaster is a return to more traditional art materials from the wood cuts and collage elements, often scraps of paintings or other works.  This return to a more traditional type of material, combined with the image created of a fetus still developing, is a metaphor for the type of rebirth that Arp believes that art and the culture as a whole must undergo.[2]  Dada sought to destroy the old world order and create something entirely new, and many years after the war Arp creates this work to signify the still ongoing evolution of this rebirth, as Arp himself now moves away from Dada and towards Surrealism.





Frey, John G. “From Dada to Surrealism”. Parnassus Vol. 8, No. 7 (Dec. 1936), p. 12-15


[1] Frey, John G. “From Dada to Surrealism”. Parnassus Vol. 8, No. 7 (Dec. 1936), p. 14

[2] Frey, John G. “From Dada to Surrealism”. Parnassus Vol. 8, No. 7 (Dec. 1936), p. 13

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