Galleries - October 2012
12. GALLERIES OCTOBER 12 L ouise Bourgeois ‘Spider IV’ 1996, The Easton Foundation, courtesy Hauser & Worth and Cheim & Read, photo Peter Bellamy, © Louise Bourgeois Trust, at Royal Academy of Arts. T erence Coventry ‘Turning Bull’ 1996, bronze, ed. of 5, at Gallery Pangolin. Robert Clatworthy ’Head III’ 1990, bronze, at Keith Chapman Gallery take on – the human figure, animals, gods, complex narratives and even austere abstractions, giving to each, in the process, ineffable qualities of agelessness, heroism and humanity. From the eerie spiritual solemnity of the 14th C. BCE Early Bronze Age ‘Chariot of the Sun’ from Trundholm in Denmark to the disturbing psychologies of Louise Bourgeois’ ‘Spider IV’ of 1996, the refined human dignity of the 14/15th C. Benin ‘Head with Crown’ to the ironic commentary provided by Jasper John’s ‘Ale Cans’ of 1960, this show provides a rich and moving commentary on the nature of spiritual and intellectual curiosity. There are, meanwhile, a number of dealers' exhibitions currently on show which reveal bronze’s enduring hold on the modern sculptor’s imagination. For example, Keith Chapman’ s very welcome re-examination of the work of the inexplicably neglected Robert Clatworthy which reveals him to be at least the equal of some of his now more celebrated post-war contemporaries, Armitage, Chadwick et al. Indeed it may have been Clatworthy’s brief fling with fibreglass in the 70s, which didn’t help his later reputation, an oddly misguided attempt perhaps to revive a huge and deserved 50s/early60s reputation based on his genuinely powerful and expressive animal and figure bronzes. He was soon back on track however, his work since the 1980s showing a renewed vigour in an artist now well into his 80s. A generation later, Terence Coventry has worked with a not dissimilar range of subject matter and mostly, but by no means always, in bronze. His angular, abstracting style is very different in feel though, cooler and more austere – ‘Cornish Modernist’ in style perhaps, reflecting a working career in West Cornwall. This show, of some three decades, has, very fittingly, been chosen to open Gallery Pangolin ’s extensively refurbished exhibition space. Finally don't overlook an excellent new London gallery largely devoted to contemporary figurative bronzes, Calken, about which more information and an image, in our Antennae column. The great tradition lives on . . . There were, at certain high points within 20th C. Modernism and Post-Modernism, brief periods when the suitability of the traditional materials of sculpture – wood, stone and, above all, bronze – to provide a viable means for contemporary artistic expression seemed seriously in question. How dated that idea itself now seems as artists, with their customary instinct for overthrowing the aesthetic shibboleths of a previous generation (or even their own!), increasingly started to see how the innate qualities we associate with these ‘old’ materials could be turned back on themselves to lend new resonances to ancient themes. Thoughts all brought back very much to mind by the Royal Academy ’s extraordinary new exhibition ‘Bronze’ where 150 sculptures, spanning nearly 5 millenia of artistic activity from Asia, Africa and Europe, reveal the material’s remarkably versatile character – toughness and resistance combined with astonishing fluidity and texture. It has lent itself to practically any subject the artist might want to the AGE of BRONZE Nicholas Usherwood on sculpture exhibitions in public and private galleries this month . . .
Made with FlippingBook