Raymond Hains (1926 - 2005) is widely regarded as one of the most important French artists and joint founder of the Nouveau Réalisme movement (1960) of the second half of the twentieth century. Along the experimental work on photography and film that he first developed in the 1940’s and 1950’s, Hains is well-known for his affiches lacérées (torn posters): from 1949 he started to use found torn posters from the streets in creating hypergraphics and ready-made « paintings ». « Showing torn posters gathered in the streets had at least one thing in common with Marcel Duchamp’s readymades: pre-existence. The torn posters were the work of a multitude of by-passers. (…) They were the product of the city itself, realising the utopian idea of a collective work created ‘by everybody’ ».(1) Hains’ work explores the world through its underlying linguistic framework, applying himself to the freedom of destruction and reinvention that language itself allows him. Defining himself as an inventor rather than an artist, Hains based his methods on deductions and comparisons, starting out from a systematic creative deconstruction of the world around him.
« From 1964 to 1971, Hains lived mainly in Italy, far from the madding of the Parisian art scene. In Venice he continued to harvest torn posters, often with an artistic connotation. The most notable works from this Italian period are undoubtedly the matches, which Hains began making in 1964. These objects - mural or three dimensional matchbooks - gave him a further opportunity to crystallise his thoughts on the status of the artist. Hains went on to create an entire exhibition of boxes and books of matches, which he attributed to two fictive artists, the incendiary twin brothers, Saffa and Seita - originally the acronyms of the Italian and French state tobacco and match-producing monopolies. This was the time of the 1964 Venice Biennale and the exhibition of Pop Art. Hains took his inspiration from one of Oldenburg’s ideas. What Hains claimed to have understood from the Nouveau Realisme was that art no longer needed to function through creative individuals but that artists had become advocates forging their own identity by becoming ‘personified abstractions’, such as blue for Yves Klein, torn posters for Hains and Villeglé, compressions for César, wrapping for Christo and so on ».(2)
(1) Jean-Marie Gallais « Which brings us back to… Raymond Hains (1926-2005) in: Galerie Max Hetzler (Ed.) Raymond Hains (2016), p. 28.
(2) Jean-Marie Gallais « Which brings us back to… Raymond Hains (1926-2005) in: Galerie Max Hetzler (Ed.) Raymond Hains (2016), p. 38 - 40.