To mark the acquisition of two major sculptures by Raymond Mason – the purchase of the bronze low relief La Place de l’Opéra (1957) and the donation by Madame Jeannine Hao of the painted work in plaster Le Voyage (1966–2010) – the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris is paying tribute to this artist born in Birmingham in 1922. Raymond Mason moved to Paris in 1946 and lived there until his death in 2010.
This exhibition is one in a series of homages by the Museum to artists working in France whose work has not been widely shown. It comes in the wake of presentations of the work of Bernard Dufour (2008), Jean Dupuy (2009), Claude Garache (2012) and Pierre Henry (2013–2014).
The two works La Place de l’Opéra and Le Voyage by Raymond Mason are accompanied by a selection of seven sculptures and a number of drawings dating from 1950–2004, together with documentary photographs by Martine Franck and Henri Cartier-Bresson. All the exhibits come from the artist's Paris studio. This showing covers the main chronological stages in Mason's oeuvre with key works which for him were constant points of reference. It begins with the engraved bronze low relief street scene of Barcelona Tram (1953), a work praised by Picasso, which is followed by a series of drawn and sculpted Paris cityscapes.
Describing himself as a realist, Mason brings together passers-by from the streets in a dynamic, meticulously composed urban theatre. The glass-fronted box of St Mark’s Place, East Village, New York City (1972) offers an animated, colourful scene whose characters are transfigured by simple, vivid painting in the tradition of medieval statuary. He focuses our attention with a host of detailed facial expressions and varying emotions in the high-relief The Illuminated Crowd (1979-1980), of which poet Yves Bonnefoy would say, 'I look at The Illuminated Crowd and in it I see, first and foremost, the same empathy as ever with human affairs in all their most unglamorous manifestations.'
In other works the majestic beauty of the skyscrapers in the low-relief New York City (1987) is set off by Amazement (2003), with its hypnotic spectacle of the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11.
Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris Website