A self-taught artist, Gérard Deschamps had his first exhibition in 1955 at the Gallery Fachetti in Paris. At this time he had abandoned oil painting and turned to collages of images from catalogues. In November 1957, he was sent to fight in the Algerian War for 27 months, where on his return in 1960, he met Raymond Hains and Jacques Villeglé and officially joined the Nouveau Réalisme group in 1961. A French counterpart to the American Pop Art, the group which included Yves Klein, Arman and Christo were united in their interest and critique of the 20th century pop consumer society with the use of readymades and assemblages of everyday objects.
Deschamps turned to the use of rags, Japanese advertising fabrics and particularly women’s under-wear; assemblages of panties, corsets, bras, girdles and garters which were often worn and soiled. Both extremely personal and mass produced, the items of underwear presented a unique duality of the individual and the masses and were the subject of numerous scandals.
The artist describes himself as both an archaeologist and as a historian. His approach is “to account for an era”. Marked by his military experience, he produced powerful imagery working with U.S army tarps, armour plates riddled with bullets, burnt iridescent metal sheeting and large scale sculptures of pieces of aircraft.
A major figure of Nouveau Réalisme, Deschamps has been exhibited widely including at the MoMA, New York and is in the collections of museums such as the Centre Pompidou, Paris.