“Approaching The Figure” Exhibition

Skarstedt Gallery

poster for “Approaching The Figure” Exhibition
[Image: Jeff Koons "Bear and Policeman" (1988) polychromed wood, 85 x 43 x 36 in. © Jeff Koons]

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Skarstedt Gallery presents the exhibition, Approaching The Figure, a group show featuring sculptures by George Condo, Willem de Kooning, Eric Fischl, KAWS, Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger, Jeff Koons, Joan Miró, Thomas Schütte, Rosemarie Trockel, and Rebecca Warren at Skarstedt Upper East Side, 20 East 79th Street, New York, NY 10075. This curation of contemporary and modern masters explores the nature of figuration, and examines how artists employ this historical genre. Approaching The Figure embraces both scale and spectacle, juxtaposing the sculptures in ways that reveal moments of beauty, drama, humor, and humility.

Bear and Policeman from 1988, one of the notorious works from Koons’ provocative Banality series is simultaneously innocent and menacing. Cast in polychrome wood, this 7foot looming sculpture beckons the viewer to reconcile between a fanciful response, and one of disquiet and unease. Reminiscent of the charming and ornate knick-knacks from the 18th century, here Koons challenges preconceived notions for the high and low in a conceptually charged manner. Manipulating the scale of the figures by enlarging the furry bear and dwarfing the policemen, Bear and Policeman conveys a poignant metaphor of art and power, whereby the morality of those involved is continuously tested.

In George Condo’s The Butcher and His Wife, the composition is as elegant and classical, as it is absurd and comical; any notion of tradition is subverted through an outrageous morphology. Exhibited in the Whitney Biennial of 2010, this work’s knobbly texture reveals the tactile immediacy of the clay from which the bronze was cast, emphasizing the artist’s hand throughout. The characters possess a startled look on their faces and the audience is invited to question whether the amorphous embrace is that of consent or capture.

Eric Fischl, known for his masterful figurative paintings, imbues his sculptures with the same piercing sensitivity and raw human emotion. In Ten Breaths: Tumbling Woman II, a bronze sculpture from 2007, we see the female nude frozen mid-fall; her form rendered all the more poignant for its visceral narrative. It is challenging to separate this sculpture from the dramatic controversy it spawned back in 2002, when Fischl was called upon to un-install a similar piece from Rockefeller Center. Claimed to have caused outrage due to the unhealed wounds of 9/11, the Tumbling Woman sculpture was what Fischl says, his sincere way of bringing people closer to this fragile moment in history and commemorating those who jumped to their death during the terrorist attack. Inspired by sculptors such as Rodin and Giacometti, Fischl strives to capture certain postures of the body, which manifest the “epic struggle between internal forces reacting to external forces.” (Eric Fischl in conversation with Ealan Wingate, ‘Eric Fischl Sculpture’, Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Gagosian Gallery, 1998)

Never publicly displayed before, stands BFF, a new life-size bronze figure by KAWS.
The artist’s iconic cast of characters draws us in with their cartoon-y aesthetic and witty disposition. Often with X’d-out eyes, and brightly colored noses, KAWS’ sculptures reflect on the range of human emotions via his signature visual language. Cast in bronze, with painted facial features, BFF adds a notably urban and street perspective to the discourse surrounding sculpture, one that historically was reserved to the highest of levels of academia and practice.

Diversely ranging from the abstracted to the more clearly recognizable forms, Approaching The Figure, inspires viewers to investigate our interactions with the figure; dissecting the artist’s original intent, and thereby reflecting on the space in which the sculptures occupy – both within the contemporary art world, and everyday life.


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