Compression, 1991

The first Compressions dirigées, with which César shocked the public in 1960, used car bodies that were ripe for the scrap-heap, mechanically crushed into prismatic bodies. The Compressions assert themselves as new, expressive products with their sharply extruded ridges, deep, broad folds, dynamized line and surface ornament and an impressive play of light. In the case of Mercedes-Benz 190, the distorting power of the metal press was obviously not applied on all sides, but only from above: so instead of a cubically compressed solid this produced a relief-like structure mounted on a wall-plate, presented like a picture, in fact almost solemnly, on a monochrome ground. César had the vehicle repainted precisely to his instructions before it was crushed, and the chosen colors stand out effectively – even the white imperfections can be made out, alongside the natural highlights, like carefully selected, precise additions to a deliberate staging.Numerous details of the coachwork are also visible, guaranteeing that the vehicle can be identified without any doubt, despite the fact that it has been completely destroyed. The eloquent criticism of the affluent, throwaway society, whose scrapping practices the artist turns into a creative artistic act, is articulated as a grotesque metamorphosis and disentchantment of a fetish.

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