Martial Raysse was born in Golfe Juan on 12 February 1036 to a family of French ceramicists. In 1954 he registered in the Faculty of Literature at the University of Nice but also attended the decorative arts school. In 1955 he got to know Ben Vautier and Arman, with whom he shared an interest in artistic experimentation.
From the Poèmes-objets and abstract paintings of his early years, Raysse progressed to assemblages of everyday objects, such as boxes of washing powder, games and plastic products, which became his favourite materials. With Arman, Yves Klein, Françoise Dufrêne, Raymonde Hains, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely and Jacques Villeglé, he belonged to the New Realism movement, founded by the art critic Pierre Restany.
In 1962 Raysse exhibited his Raysse Beach at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. This was the most ‘American’ and Pop installation of his entire artistic output. Three years later he moved to Los Angeles, where various galleries were interested in his work, extending his reputation beyond France. This was a period of intense creativity: in 1962, he created more than thirty works, and more than 100 between 63 and 64.
In 1963 he produced his Made in Japan series, in which works by great painters, from Cranach to Pollaiuolo and from Ghirlandaio to Ingres, are passed through the brilliantly coloured filter and incisive style of the Pop Art imagination.
During these years, in a cultural environment influenced by New Wave films, Raysse became interested in cinema. He made experimental films, which he often integrated in his paintings, such as Suzanna, Suzanna of 1964, in which short videos are projected directly onto the canvas. In 1966 the artist represented France at the Venice Biennale with a ten-metre long composition called Nice-Venice.
At the end of the 1960s, against the backrdop of the French May protests, Raysse established a distance from his Pop works, which struck him as false and superficial, and learned to paint.
From the 1970s, his tireless pictorial production was accompanied by intense sculptural activity, which included small humorous sculptures made with found materials, the Coco Mato boxes reflective of his psychedelic experimentation, and classicising figures often made in bronze.
From the 90s, Raysse’s paintings have tended more towards great pictorial compositions. Carnivals and lively tableaux vivants have become the characterstic elements of his work. An affirmation of this burlesque spirit is found in Le Carnaval à Périgueux of 1992, while his interest in humanity, with its temptations and brutality, emerge in Ici plage comme ici bas of 2012, which represents a masterly synthesis of his work.
Following his participation in the exhibition “Sequence 1” in 2007 and “Mapping The Studio, Artist from the François Pinault Collection” in 2009, both at Palazzo Grassi, in 2014 the Centre Pompidou in Paris held an important retrospective of his work. In 2015, Palazzo Grassi holds the first large-scale exhibition of his work in Italy.