In 1971, Harold Cousins published an essay explaining the sculptures that he had begun creating in the mid-1950s, following his relocation in October 1949 from New York to Paris. Cousins described his series named Plaiton, his own neologism combining the English word plate with the French word laiton (brass). This linguistic combination paralleled Cousins’s description of himself as a “sculptor-welder,” a practice that grew from experiments in oxyacetylene welding while studying in Paris with funding from the GI Bill. Providing the first scholarly analysis of sculptor Cousins’s rich career, this article recovers the artist’s early biography through family archives, including correspondence and period criticism. It then examines Cousins’s early artwork and his own description of his artistic practice culminating in Plaiton. Finally, it considers Cousins’s 1950s sculptures, particularly Plaiton Suspendu, and speculates on its relation to his later work. In considering Cousins’s sculpture in relation to racial constructions of the immediate postwar period, I draw on prior scholarship focused on postwar African American artists in Paris. I also look to studies of the ways Black artists employed abstraction—histories that often begin in the mid-1960s or 1970s. In examining the mid-1950s Plaiton works, I hope to both bring Cousins and his work back to visibility and suggest that this history actually began substantially earlier.

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