Discover the artistic wonders of Paris famous Impasse Ronsin in a celebration at Manhattan’s Paul Kasmin Gallery

There once was an alley in Paris where no artistic expression was off-limits. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Impasse Ronsin, the most artistic alley in the French capital, was home to a seedy studio where the likes of Constantin Brancusi, Max Ernst, Yves Klein, Jean Tinguely, Larry Rivers, Niki de Saint Phalle, William N. Copley and more created some of the world’s most important artworks. Paul Kasmin Gallery in Manhattan is celebrating the Impasse Ronsin’s artistic importance with an exhibition highlighting work and memorabilia by the alley’s artists and featuring a distinctive installation designed to embody the collaborative atmosphere of the place. Running until January 18, Impasse Ronsin takes as its focus the historic Parisian alley, displaying works such as Saint Phalle’s 1961 Tir (Fragment de Dracula II), which forms part of the artist’s Shooting Paintings series and which she staged at the Impasse Ronsin with the help of Tinguely, Klein and Pierre Restany. A kinetic sculpture made in 1961 by Rivers with the help of Tinguely, Turning Friendship Model, is also part of the show. In both cases, the artists believed that performance was as important as the artwork itself.

The installation, on view in the rear gallery, was created by the Noguchi Museum specifically for the exhibition. The intriguing artwork evokes the “Brancusi-like” studio Isamu Noguchi established in Gentily, south of Paris, in 1927, after his stint as Brancusi’s assistant. Although various artists are chronicled in the show, Brancusi, as the Impasse Ronsin’s pioneer, is at the heart of the exhibition. The Romanian artist initially moved into the Impasse in 1916, and  stayed there until his death in 1957. During those years, countless artists came to the Impasse Ronsin to meet Brancusi and get to know his work. From the 1930s through to the 1950s, the alley was closely associated with Dada and Surrealism, and frequent visitors included Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp. The Surrealist spirit lived on into the 1960s, with additional artists descending upon the alley, including François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne (Les Lalanne), Ernst and Copley.

At Paul Kasmin Gallery, visitors can view a bronze edition of Brancusi’s Princess X; a vintage photo of Brancusi and his dogs at the Impasse taken by Man Ray; an original set of Duchamp’s Rotoreliefs; Ernst’s painting Dancers under the Starry Sky, displayed for the first time in 64 years; Copley’s iconic Steroptic Nude; and Les Lalanne’s Mouton de Laine. With artistic communities now thriving across the globe, in such places as Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Beijing, Berlin and London, the historic importance of the Impasse Ronsin is more important than ever. The alley’s convivial environment and its cooperative spirit were key in creating artistic dialogue in the mid-20th century and perhaps served as a precursor to the vast artistic communities that exist today.

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The Performing Arts Issue #39, pages 82-84.