Stephen Friedman Gallery is pleased to present 'Study from the Human Body',a group exhibition that pivots around two legendary twentieth century artists: Francis Bacon and Henry Moore. The show captures the complex discourse on the human form by aligning the timeless influence of these two masters with a diverse group of international contemporary artists working today.
'Study from the Human Body' takes its title from a major painting by Francis Bacon which conveys a naked man in motion rendered in characteristic brush strokes of pink, purple and white. This powerful contemplation of the human form is evident in previously unseen paintings by Yoshitomo Nara, Kehinde Wiley and Jiro Takamatsu. Nara’s ‘Julien’ is an intimate full-scale portrait of a young boy, painted in gentle swathes of grey. In contrast, a dramatic new painting by Kehinde Wiley depicts a reclining semi-naked male figure mimicking the pose of a dying Thomas Chatterton in Henry Wallis' famous portrait of 1856. Catherine Opie’s, ‘David’ is a poignant full-length photographic portrait of a naked man with bloodied hands. Uniquely rendered, each of these artists precisely captures the fragility and tenderness of the human form.
Complementing the paintings is a group of figurative sculptures by Stephan Balkenhol, Huma Bhabha, Tom Friedman, Kendell Geers and Yinka Shonibare, MBE. Bhabha’s ‘Chain of Missing Links’ is a towering human totem created with multifarious media including weeds, a skull, rust and Styrofoam. Its neo-primitive form draws a link to Geers’ sculptures from the series ‘Flesh of the Spirit’, a commentary on the fetishisation of African objects. Hand-modelled and cast in bronze they bring to mind Moore's more abstracted forms. Moore's key principle of 'truth to materials' is also strongly evident in a new sculpture by Stephan Balkenhol whose human form is hand-carved out of a sold block of wood.
Tom Friedman and Yinka Shonibare, MBE both present playful and anthropomorphic sculptures. A humorous self portrait, Friedman's 'Being' is a larger-than-life pre-historic man fashioned out of painted Styrofoam balls. Shonibare's 'Fire' is a Victorian figure of ambiguous race clothed in exuberant wax batik. In place of a head, an ornately carved glass lamp glows symbolically and flickers in reference to the element, fire.
In one gallery, David Shrigley's 2013 Turner Prize installation 'Life Model' is presented in London for the first time: a three metre high sculpture of a naked and comically disproportioned male model is set within a traditional life drawing classroom. Standing still on a plinth, his beady eyes occasionally blink and periodically he urinates into a tin bucket near his feet. Here, the concept of a traditional life drawing class is reimagined as the public is invited to participate in an ongoing 'study' of the human body over the course of the show.
A meeting of tradition and innovation, connoisseurship and humour, 'Study from the Human Body’ is a comprehensive exploration of the impact of Francis Bacon and Henry Moore on contemporary figurative art.
With thanks to Slade School of Fine Art, UCL.