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Bell and Navels

Jean (Hans) Arp
(French, born Germany (Alsace). 1886–1966)

1931. Painted wood, Overall 11 5/8" (25.4 cm) high x 19 3/8" (49.3 cm) diameter, including wood base

The title of this sculpture identifies its two spherical shapes as navels and the larger, upturned form as a bell. The navel was one of Arp’s signature motifs. In various works, including sculptures and prints, the navel resembled an egg, a seed, a womb, and, as paired here, breasts. The form resonated with him as a symbol of birth, growth, and fertility, he explained, “It’s the first thing that exists, the beginning.”

Arp connected the act of artistic creation with the cycles of nature and birth. The year he made this sculpture, Arp declared, “Art is a fruit that grows in man like a fruit on a plant or a child in its mother’s womb.”

A three-dimensional work of art made by a variety of means, including carving wood, chiseling stone, casting or welding metal, molding clay or wax, or assembling materials.

A form, sign, or emblem that represents something else, often something immaterial, such as an idea or emotion.

The form or condition in which an object exists or appears.

A work of art on paper that usually exists in multiple copies. It is created not by drawing directly on paper, but through a transfer process. The artist begins by creating a composition on another surface, such as metal or wood, and the transfer occurs when that surface is inked and a sheet of paper, placed in contact with it, is run through a printing press. Four common printmaking techniques are woodcut, etching, lithography, and screenprint.

A distinctive and often recurring feature in a composition.

The shape or structure of an object.