The New Realists – Pierre Restany
It is in vain that sober academics or honest people alarmed by the acceleration of the history of art, and the extraordinary debilitation of our modern period, have tried to stop the sun or to suspend the advance of time by following the opposite direction to that taken by the hands of a watch.
We are witnessing today the exhaustion and the ossification of all established vocabularies, of all languages, of all styles. Because of this deficiency – through exhaustion – of traditional means, individual initiatives, still scattered in Europe and America, confront each other; but they all tend, no matter what the range of their investigations, to define the normative bases of a new expressivity.
It is not just another formula in the medium of oil or enamel. Easel painting (like every other type of classical means of expression in the domain of painting or sculpture) has had its day. At the moment it lives on in the last remnants, still sometimes sublime, of its long monopoly.
What do we propose instead? The passionate adventure of the real perceived in itself and not through the prism of conceptual or imaginative transcription. What is its mark? The introduction of a sociological continuation of the essential phase of communication. Sociology comes to the assistance of consciousness and of chance, whether this be at the level of choice or of the tearing up of posters, °f the allure of an object, of the household rubbish or the scraps of the dining-room, of the unleashing of mechanical susceptibility, of the diffusion of sensibility beyond the limits of its perception.
All of these initiatives (there are some, and there will be others) abolish the excessive distance created by categorical understanding between general, objective contingency and urgent individual expression. It is sociological reality in its entirety, the common good of all human activity, the great republic of our social exchanges, of our commerce in society, which is called to appear. Its artistic vocation must leave no doubt, if there are so many people who believe in the eternal immanence of allegedly noble genres and of painting in particular. At the stage, most essential in its urgency, of full affective expression and of the externalization of the individual creator, and through the naturally Baroque appearances of certain experiences, we are on the way to a new realism of pure sensibility. There, to say the least, is one of the paths of the future. With Yves Klein and Tinguely, Hains and Arman, Dufrene and Villegle, very diverse beginnings are thus poised around Paris. The ferment will be rich, still unknown in its full consequences, certainly iconoclastic (in consequence of the fault of icons and the stupidity of their admirers).
We are thus bathed in direct expressivity up to our necks, at forty degrees above the Dada zero, without aggressiveness, without a downright polemical intent, without any other justificatory itch than our realism. And that works positively. Man, if he shares in reintegrating himself in reality, identifies it with his own transcendence, which is emotion, feeling and finally, once again, poetry.
The manifesto was originally issued on 16 April 1960 at the Galerie Apollinaire, Milan.