An exhibition exploring some of the imaginative ways in which the sculptural form has been re-invented from just before WWI to the present day
Manchester Art Gallery
Saturday 15 February 2014–Sunday 7 September 2014
During the last century sculpture has become more difficult to define than any other art form. The concept of sculpture as static and three-dimensional has been challenged and the boundaries between sculpture, craft and design have become less distinct. The exhibition explored the reinvention of this medium by combining sculpture with two-dimensional works of art and designed objects to create some unexpected but visually stunning juxtapositions.
Sculptural Forms was mainly drawn from the gallery’s own collection and those of two of our partners, the Whitworth and the Arts Council Collection. It provided an opportunity for guests to see major pieces from the Whitworth while it was closed for refurbishment, including works by Barbara Hepworth and Eduardo Paolozzi. We also showed two new acquisitions: Rocking Chair No 4 by Henry Moore, 1950, and Ridged Vessel by Claire Malet, 2014.
The exhibition was arranged in three sections – the Human Condition, Abstraction and Transformation.
The Human Condition
The Human Condition showed the impact of war and developments in the understanding of the human psyche on figurative sculpture. Even if the sitter can be identified, these are not purely studies in likeness but attempts to convey intangible states of being including the heroic, maternal and spiritual, or emotions such as anxiety and sadness. Some of the sculptures were chosen because they push the boundaries of the representational showing the influence of modernism and surrealism. Sculptors represented include Eric Gill, Jacob Epstein and Tony Oursler.
The next section presented two contrasting approaches to abstraction: the mathematical and scientific, the intuitive and organic. Anthony Caro, Michael Challenger and Michael Rowe explored the relationship between planes and angles. The curved forms created by Barbara Hepworth, Ron Arad and Alison Wearing expressed simultaneously the harmony and tension between mass and void, outer and inner surfaces.
Since the early 1900s, artists have used pre-existing objects as both subject and material. The final section, Transformation, included playful pieces by Sarah Lucas, Bill Woodrow and Philippe Starck alongside more serious work by Lynn Chadwick and Rachel Whiteread. Sometimes the original function of the object was crucial to the meaning of its new incarnation. In other instances, the choice of object was purely formal, the artist exploiting the suggestive power of shape, colour and detail.
Sculptural Forms also served as the inspiration for art activities designed for families with young children in the adjacent gallery, the Clore Art Studio. The concept was been devised in conjunction with artist Sarah Bridgland whose work in paper combines sculpture with collage.
Barbara Hepworth Sphere with Inner Form 1963
On loan from Whitworth Art Gallery, The University of Manchester
Photograph © Bowness, Hepworth Estate
Claire Malet, Ridged Vessel, 2014,
Steel, 23 ct red gold, copper
Photograph © Anthony Evans
Stephen Dixon Liu Xiaobo 2012
Transfer-printed earthenware, epoxy resin, tile adhesive
On loan from Stephen Dixon
Photograph © Tony Richards