César France, 1921-1998
César Baldaccini (b. 1921, Marseilles, France; d. 1998, Paris, France) was a French sculptor most closely associated with Nouveau Réalisme. Founded by critic Pierre Restany and artist Yves Klein in 1960, the Nouveau Réalisme movement was, in many ways, the European avant-garde counterpoint to Pop Art. César, along with fellow Nouveau Réalisme members Arman, Jean Tinguely and Daniel Spoerri, sought to bring art and life closer together by appropriating and reinventing readymade objects and urban culture to critique consumerism and reflect the substantial influence of industrialism and advertising on society at large in the 1960s. César began his formal artistic training from an early age; he studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Marseilles in 1935-39 and then at the esteemed Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1943-48. Beginning in 1952, César welded scraps of metal together into sculptures of insects and nudes before turning entirely to his Compressions at the turn of the decade. By the 1960s, César’s practice focused on using a hydraulic machine, welding torch, and/or sledgehammer to crush readymade objects such as automobiles, trash and discarded metal into geometric cubes. In 1966, César received the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale prize for sculpture and in 1978 was made Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur. His work can be found in a number of international collections including The Museum of Modern Art in New York; Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris and Tate, London.