In 1949, Raymond Hains and his occasional collaborator Jacques Villeglé began excavating layers of torn advertising and political propaganda posters found on the streets of Paris, which they brought back to their studios and claimed as their art. Some 10 years later, Hains began collecting large, sheet-iron fence panels, visible here in Untitled, with posters affixed to them. The artist often used a putty knife to further compose or manipulate the layers.
Hains’ works were made as if in collaboration with the countless people from a vast array of backgrounds who had pasted, touched, or torn at the posters on the street. Produced at the height of France’s postwar identity crisis—when the nation was divided about the best way to deal with a war of independence in its colony Algeria and was experiencing new waves of materialism and modernization—the posters within the work bear witness to this turmoil. In fact, a 1961 exhibition by Villeglé and Hains was titled simply La France déchirée (France in Shreds).