An Ode to an Alley

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CREATIVE OUTPUT RARELY HAPPENS in isolation. Significant art movements can often be traced to a specific place—to a quarter, café, salon, home, bookstore, or neighborhood—that served as a breeding ground for experimentation and the exchange of ideas. In Paris, a short, narrow alley in the fifteenth arrondissement known as Impasse Ronsin became a hub for some of the most prominent artists of the twentieth century, including Constantin Brancusi, Max Ernst, Yves Klein, Les Lalanne, Niki de Saint Phalle, and Jean Tinguely, among others. An exhibition, Impasse Ronsin, at the Paul Kasmin Gallery on 27th Street in New York until January 14, turns its attention to the historic passageway, where, for more than three decades, artists set up studios, rubbed shoulders with one another, and produced some of the best work of their careers. A trove of archival images of these influential figures, including William N. Copley, Brancusi, and François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne, is installed beside their works of art—re-creating the synergic spirit of the time. A bronze edition of Brancusi’s Princess X stands near a series of vintage photographs of his studio and works, including one of him sawing a block of limestone for his chimney and another featuring a cat atop metal mailboxes bearing his name in loose, white block letters. The show also underscores the symbiotic relationships that emerged among the artists who shared studio space there, as demonstrated by Tir (Fragment de Dracula II) from de Saint Phalle’s infamous “Shooting Paintings” series, which was shot in 1961 on Impasse Ronsin with the help of her friends Tinguely, Klein, and Pierre Restany.

The exhibition is a reminder of how crucial place can be to the artistic process, whether it happens in repurposed studios in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, in the cauldrons of café culture in Paris, or by the sandy beaches of the Springs in East Hampton, where abstract expressionists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning painted and shared summers. paulkasmingallery.com