Grand Rapids, Michigan has been graced with exceptional art exhibits this year. I recently attended Rodin and the Contemporary Figurative Tradition at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park and was not disappointed.
So who was Auguste Rodin? He was a French artist who worked mainly in bronze cast sculpture from a plaster mold. He lived from November 12, 1840 - November 17, 1917 and his sculptures are known for their realistic depiction of the human form and storytelling. The exhibit touches on four main features in Rodin's sculptures: fragmentation, sensuality, narrative and materiality. All of the works incorporate one or more of these features and create a wonderful dialogue between contemporary artists and Rodin.
My favorite pieces in Rodin and the Contemporary Figurative Tradition highlight fragmentation, a technique frequently employed by Rodin. I like to describe fragmented sculpture as 'Frankensteined.' The artist re-purposes parts not used in previous sculptures to make a new piece. Liz Glynn's Untitled (after Shade) is a prime example. The most interesting detail in Untitled (after Shade) is that the hip of the figure is formed by a face.
Liz Glynn, Untitled (after Shade), 2014, Bronze
Anders Krisár's Untitled, 2014- 2015 uses fragmentation and symmetry to create an expressive sculpture. To me this figure is the healing of a fractured individual. Krisár also hits on the materiality element with the use of polyester resin and polyurethane to create a fleshy appearance.
Anders Krisár's Untitled, 2014- 2015,
Acrylic paint on polyester resin, polyurethane, oil paint, board, wood plugs and screws
Claire McArdle also uses materiality in Torso Ambrosia. The Carrara marble is made to fluctuate between smooth and chiseled, raw, roughness.
Claire McArdle Torso Ambrosia, 2017, Carrara marble
The next piece that embraces materiality is Rolf Jacobsen's Recovery of Icarus. The texture and appearance of the wood fits so well with the subject that it is difficult to imagine this work in a different medium.
Rolf Jacobsen Recovery of Icarus, 2016, Wood and Gesso
The material is extremely important in incorporating another theme of Rodin's work : narrative. The story of Icarus flying too close to the sun adds a vital layer to the artist's message.
Rodin's Martyr #5, 1885, includes the narrative of a martyr but also oozes sensuality. The musculature and facial expression show a sensuality in death like Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Theresa.
Auguste Rodin Martyr #5, 1885, Bronze
Like Martyr #5, Rodin's The Kiss perfectly exemplifies how the artists communicates an abstract idea like sensuality. The hands of the couple demonstrate sensuality; the viewer can sense the pressure of the hands on the pliable flesh underneath.
Auguste Rodin, The Kiss, cast before 1914, Bronze
The echo of Rodin's use of sensuality is easily observed in Louis Marino's Reflection. The similarity in style starts a dialogue between the two artists about creating sensuality in bronze.
Louis Marino Reflection, 1989, Bronze
Similar to Reflection, Rodrigo Lara Zendejas has a direct conversation with Rodin via Crowd Gate, 2017. He uses replicas of figures in Rodin's Gates of Hell along side his re-imagined features.
Rodrigo Lara Zendejas, Crowd Gate, 2017, Bronze
Rodin and the Contemporary Figurative Tradition creates a wonderful conversation between Rodin and artists working today. Highlighting the ideas of fragmentation, sensuality, narrative and materiality reinforces the strength of Rodin's influence even 100 years after his death. This is an exhibit that should not be missed.