Exhibition Board text for Beyond Rodin – New Directions in Figurative Sculpture, Rye Arts Center
This exhibition started two years ago when the Rye Arts Center asked me to curate a sculpture show, and I got interested because I was seeing so much quality figurative sculpture being created, and so little of it being shown. For 50 years, figurative sculpture had essentially been off-limits for the art world inner circles, taught in only a few institutions.
The good news is that in the last few years word seems to be out, and strong figurative work is starting to appear more consistently in major art fairs, high-visibility galleries and exhibitions.
The 20 sculptors here are creating work that navigates, in my view, the crucial shoals of making contemporary figurative art. . These sculptors aren’t the only ones getting it right – we could have filled a venue three times bigger-- but the fact remains in figurative sculpture it’s easy to get it wrong.
First off, creating figurative sculpture well has a long learning curve – the anatomy takes years to seep in, the materials and processes themselves are complex. But getting to that point only gives you a technical foundation, and much work ends up looking like a pale rendition of sculpture already done so powerfully in centuries past.
While it may well be possible to forge ahead without a strong foundation and still make good art, my effort for this show has been to find people who are hitting on all those cylinders—strong anatomical and sculptural foundations and a strong source of Idea, masterfully realized. The resulting work connects to a deep place inside us, transforms the space around us, speaks from a focused center to our current and enduring concerns. And it does all this while innovating, giving us something we haven’t seen before. For me, this is the definition of great contemporary art.