Sculpture and the Human Condition is an exhibition featuring sculptures that provoke thought and emotion from viewers, with some artists adopting a more subtle message while others taking more direct approaches towards conveying their intended meanings.
Philip Maiors’ sculptures create questions that remain unanswered in life, suggesting the answers may lie just beneath the surface. His textural, loosely sculpted figures hint that answers lie just under the surface.
Rene Magritte was an internationally acclaimed Belgian surrealist painter known for his depictions of familiar objects in unfamiliar contexts and raising questions about reality and representation. His imagery greatly influenced pop, minimalist, and conceptual art forms alike. Born in Lessines and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels before beginning work for a wallpaper company before eventually transitioning into poster art as his chosen field.
Magritte first experimented with cubism, before later moving towards more naturalistic styles that more directly illustrated paradoxical themes, as seen in his iconic green apple painting and series of pipe paintings. Magritte employed various artistic devices – like using an easel as a mechanism – to create illusions – such as using one painting within another one!
Artists worldwide have drawn great inspiration from his surrealist style. His paintings use everyday elements such as trees, pears, and apples to draw viewers in and make them think about how his pieces relate to their daily lives.
Magritte’s most renowned works are The Human Condition and The Pleasure Principle. The former depicts an easel before a window with a painting that seems connected with its surrounding landscape, but upon closer examination is revealed as separate; this image serves as a metaphor for our perception of reality and perceptions of reality in general.
Rene Magritte’s masterpiece The Human Condition from 1933 has long been one of his best-known paintings. Now on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, this painting employs Magritte’s technique of melting canvas into background to create an optical illusion and is one of his most celebrated artworks.
This painting incorporates multiple Surrealist techniques, such as juxtaposition, repetition, and allusion. The result is an eye-catching piece that challenges viewer perceptions of reality.
Alberto Giacometti stands as one of the most influential modern artists. Distinguished for his iconic elongated bronze figures with their signature skeletal features, his sculptures originally exhibited under Surrealist influence eventually transitioned towards an entirely unique approach to figurative composition.
His works are distinguished by a dynamic between their sense of creation inherent to sculpture and its association with death; as the artist once stated, his sculptures “are half way between nothingness and being.”
At a time when many artists were exploring abstraction to move away from realistic depiction, Giacometti started exploring reinterpreting human form. He invented a method for rendering depth in sculpture by shrinking its mass so as to appear smaller than it actually was; using this new technique Giacometti was able to imagine figures seen from a distance that appeared more abstract yet still recognizable.
Giacometti’s long forms also resonated with existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, who saw these isolated figures as depictions of human alienation at the end of World War II. Even though Sartre interpreted Giacometti’s art through this lense, Giacometti rejected such interpretation and upheld his artistic vision.
His postwar elongated standing figures capture the sense of exhaustion and loss associated with human existence, with their expressive power emanating from their depictions of fragility of body as it struggles to keep itself together; their empty spaces mirroring human communication being impossible since each individual remains distinct and isolated in his or her individual personality.
Expressionistic art pieces exemplify this theme in their bodies’ ability to sway back and forth and shift from side to side, with expansive feet reminiscent of airplane wings or ancient Greek sculpture korai which represent our subconscious and conscious minds in opposition.
Morris was an influential force in the rise of Minimalism, Land Art and Process Art movements as well as being at the centre of contemporary debates on art’s role within society.
Like Magritte, Morris often had an unflinching view of humanity, with themes of death and nuclear war frequently dominating his sculptures. Though these memento mori-inspired pieces could serve as memento mori reminders, Morris also gave hope and offered ways to transcend human existence’s darkness.
Morris was among the pioneers to use industrial materials in his works, such as steel and fiberglass, breaking away from traditional notions that an artist’s works needed to be handmade by them alone. For example, his box sculptures could be commercially manufactured and reproduced over time; thus enabling their concept to change without altering physical form itself.
Morris was best-known for his abstract sculptures, but was an experimental artist who dabbled with dance and performance; both he and Simone Forti were active participants at Judson Dance Theater. Morris was heavily influenced by Abstract Expressionism before later moving to New York where he made the conceptual pieces that have become his hallmark works.
Bodyspacemotionthings was restaged at the Turbine Hall in 2009 to show how Morris’s sculptural installations encouraged people to move and interact with them. He employed several techniques for engaging his audiences such as placing pieces on pedestals, suspending them from ceilings or creating walkways around his work.
One work from this exhibit that was particularly moving was The Big Sleep, featuring nine figures draped in black fabric that each symbolize a different aspect of human experience. Its haunting image conjures nightmares while its fabric folds offer tactile pleasures; Morris took inspiration from Goya’s drawings of witches and old women to craft works depicting vanities, follies, cruelty and fantasies of humanity in these pieces.
Antony Gormley (b. 1950), one of Britain’s foremost artists, is celebrated for his unique sculptures and installations that explore humankind’s relationship to space. His work harnesses the potential opened up by sculpture since the 1960s to address fundamental questions regarding humanity’s place within nature and cosmic environment.
Gormley’s body-oriented art exudes an introspective, meditative quality. Though his works may appear as self-portraits, they serve more as universal signifiers of human experience than they do like traditional self-portraiture would suggest. Gormley shares this quality with postmodern artists such as Sarah Lucas’ cheeky self-portraits; Tracey Emin’s brutally honest self-exposures in printmaking and tapestry; and Peter Blake’s surreal vision of human figures filled with transcendental energy.
Gormley initially struggled financially at the outset of his career, working out of a modest studio in Peckham and supporting himself through teaching art at nearby schools. Following a successful exhibition at London’s Whitechapel Gallery in 1983, he was signed onto Jay Jopling’s commercial art dealer gallery, providing some financial security.
Gormley has participated in major group exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale (1982 and 1986) and Documenta VIII, Kassel Germany (1987). Additionally, he has had multiple solo exhibitions – most recently at Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon (2004); Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts in Gateshead England (2003; and finally National History Museum Beijing China 2003).
Recently, Gormley’s sculptures have taken on more elongated forms that seem to expand and dissolve body boundaries – echoing his earlier pieces.
Gormley created one of his most ambitious projects yet when he installed Exposure on Lelystad Beachfront in Lelystad, Netherlands. This 25 metre sculpture meant to respond to rising sea levels due to global warming – representing our bodies being gradually submerged – was placed there to represent that our bodies will eventually succumb.