press release

NY Times: “This is all museum grade… That it is in Peekskill is thrilling.” A comprehensive survey of the best figurative sculpture and video today featured 29 artists from 17 countries: Marina Abramovic, Berlinde DeBruykere, Tom Friedman, Red Grooms, Damien Hirst, Yayoi Kusama, Mark Manders, Paul McCarthy, Juan Munoz, Shirin Neshat, Nam June Paik, Evan Penny, Patricia Piccinini, Rona Pondick, Kiki Smith and emerging artists – Folkert de Jong, Will Ryman and others.

The genre of highly realistic figurative sculpture is time honored with a deep tradition going back over two thousand years. Proficiency is prized but even in this genre the most enduring work, such as Michelangelo’s David, has emotional impact. Indeed, the larger-than-life size of David adds to the power of the work. In the modern era, one easily thinks of Dwayne Hanson’s beautifully made figures, which are so realistic that they deceive the viewer by appearing truly human. But once the deception is revealed, the work runs the risk of becoming static. In contrast to these figures, Giacometti’s thin, anorexic people are emotionally compelling. The artist’s disregard of anatomical correctness and their peculiarity impart universality. We are pushed to add narrative and implication.

More recently, Red Grooms and Nam June Paik have laid some of the groundwork for developments in contemporary figurative sculpture. Grooms used distortion and pedestrian materials to convey humor and emotion. Paik integrated video, TVs and radios into his well-known robots that were reflections or parables of what man has become.

In recent years a growing number of sculptors have integrated this discourse into work that leans more heavily on impoverished or unexpected materials: Tom Friedman, Olav Westphalen, Will Ryman, Oliver Herring, Bonnie Collura and Paul McCarthy. McCarthy’s Michael Jackson, a riff on Jeff Koon’s well-known ceramic sculpture, appears to be an unfinished sculpture made of chocolate. Friedman’s humorous Garbage Can is made of paper. It portrays a man’s head unseen in a garbage can with only the feet extending, ending with carefully rendered New Balance sneakers.

Some artists, like Kiki Smith, Rona Pondick, Berlinde DeBruykere, and Takashi Murakami, have followed a more modernist path. DeBruykere’s wax figures and sewn human and animal figures are highly classical but confound anatomy with missing or wrongly placed parts. Murakami’s luxuriously rendered human and animal sculptures are energized by cartoon-like features and an implied narrative.

In every example the success of these works is in part related to distortion in the service of its emotional intention. This becomes more evident in the highly technical sculpture that is in ascendancy just now. Keith Edmier, and Patricia Piccinini are among a growing group of artists whose figures are extraordinarily proficient and yet frequently capture the humor or pathos that we see in Grooms. Human and animal figures are being made of silicon, resins and other materials with such exactness that they sometimes appear super-real, capturing anatomical details that can be easily overlooked. Ron Mueck, Tony Matelli, Evan Penny, Takashi Murakami, and Patricia Piccinini employ modern technology first used for Sesame Street figures. (Mueck worked for the program.)

While Figure It Out focuses primarily on the work of a younger generation of figurative sculptors who honor proficiency but imbue the work with invention and metaphoric power, seminal work by Red Grooms and Nam June Paik are included in the exhibition as a point of reference.

Among the artists whose work is included in Figure It Out are sculptors Deborah Butterfield (US), Bonnie Collura (US), Berlinde DeBruyckere (Belgium), Folkert de Jong (Netherlands), Keith Edmier (US), Tom Friedman (US), Red Grooms (US), Mathilde ter Heijne (Germany), Oliver Herring (US), Damien Hirst (UK), Karsten Krejcarek (US), Mark Manders (Belgium), Tony Matelli (US), Paul McCarthy (US), Ron Mueck (UK), Takashi Murakami (Japan), Juan Munoz (Spain), Nam June Paik (Korea), Evan Penny (Canada), Patricia Piccinini (Australia), Rona Pondick (US), Will Ryman (US), Claudette Schreuders (So. Africa), Kiki Smith (US), and Olav Westphalen (Germany) and video artists Marina Abramovic (Holland), Maria Marshall (UK), Shirin Neshat (Iran) and Yayoi Kusama (Japan).


Figure It Out

mit Marina Abramovic, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Deborah Butterfield, Bonnie Collura, Keith Edmier, Tom Friedman, Red Grooms , Mathilde ter Heijne, Oliver Herring, Damien Hirst, Folkert de Jong, Karsten Krejcarek, Yayoi Kusama, Mark Manders, Maria Marshall, Tony Matelli, Paul McCarthy, Ron Mueck, Takashi Murakami, Juan Muñoz, Shirin Neshat, Nam June Paik, Evan Penny, Patricia Piccinini, Rona Pondick, Kiki Smith, Will Ryman, Claudette Schreuders, Kiki Smith, Olav Westphalen, Yayoi Kusama ...