Dutch sculptor Joep van Lieshout (b. 1963) founded the studio, Atelier Van Lieshout in 1995 as a way of moving away from the myth of individual artistic genius. Together with a collective of assistants designing and fabricating work from a shared studio on the Rotterdam harbor, Atelier Van Lieshout’s practice investigates the interplay between manufacturing art and mass-producing functional, yet fantastical objects. For thirty years, Van Lieshout’s multidisciplinary and provocative practice produces work that conflate boundaries between art, design and architecture. Bacchus and His Two Assistants (2001) depicts Bacchus, the Roman god of agriculture, wine and fertility, frequently represented in festive scenes of bountiful merrymaking, together with two helpers assisting in the feast. The figures take the form of Atelier Van Lieshout’s “AVL Man”, pure-white simplified modular sculptures made “in the image of the ideal employee”. These geometrically shaped and faceless fiberglass figures do not eat, nor complain. Yet, they are lacking hands and feet with which to work, and genitalia with which to reproduce. They are, therefore, effectively useless for both production and reproduction.
Richard Deacon (b. 1949) has been a leading figure in British sculpture since the 1980s. He describes himself as a fabricator who constructs objects using manufacturing or building techniques, rather than as a sculptor who carves or models. In a career spanning more than four decades, Deacon has worked with a diverse range of materials including laminated wood, stainless steel, corrugated iron, polycarbonate, marble, clay, vinyl, foam and leather. Working on both domestic and monumental scales, he manipulates his materials to create structures that combine organic and biomorphic forms with elements of engineering. Deacon’s Untitled 1991 (1991), made of painted welded steel, consists of three vertical loops intersected and linked along their top and bottom horizontal axes. Using a technique called heat-line bending, Deacon transforms a flat plate of steel into a three-dimensional and organic form. The anthropomorphic shapes, resembling eyes, ears or open mouths, are joined together in a dynamic and airy structure that contradicts the rigidity and heaviness inherent to the material of steel. The welding lines are purposefully revealed to emphasize the work’s structure and “fabricated” status. With its overlapping arcs and undulating curves, the sculpture presents complex shapes and intersections from every angle.
Sir Antony Gormley (b. 1950) is internationally lauded for his sculptures, installations and public artworks that investigate the relationship of the human body to space. Present Time (2001) is a cast iron version of one of Gormley’s most iconic early works made in 1987 out of lead. The sculpture is based on two molds made directly from Gormley’s body. The lower half is a heavy and closed shell, resembling a sarcophagus. In contrast, the inverted body on the upper half is positioned with legs and arms outstretched. Both forms merge at the neckline, connected yet divided. In Present Time, Gormley illustrates the dichotomy between the physical materiality of our earthly bodies and the boundless imaginative realm of the mind. In describing the work, Gormley says: “Present Time is my attempt to engage with the mind/body problem. It is a materialization of embodied mindfulness. The lower form is an enclosed mass, armed like a marine mine; the upper one open with all its limbs free, embracing space. It uses the stasis of sculpture to interrupt the living time of the viewer. The stillness of this materialist proposition invites us to reassess our position in time and space.”
Throughout the past two decades, the installations, paintings, photography, films, and public projects of Danish-Icelandic artist, Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967), have served as tools for exploring the cognitive and cultural conditions that inform our perception. Ranging from immersive environments of color, light, and movement to installations that recontextualize natural phenomena, his work defies the notion of art as an autonomous object and instead positions itself as part of an active exchange with the visitor and his or her individualized experience. Described by the artist as “devices for the experience of reality,” his individual works and projects prompt a greater sense of awareness about the ways we both interpret and co-produce the world. By recreating the natural through artificial means and capturing it in both time and space, Eliasson's work encourages the renegotiation of linear perceptions of space as well as the line between reality and representation. Eliasson’s Waterfall (2004) confronts fundamental perceptions of nature while addressing notions of space and movement. Using everyday industrial scaffolding and a system of plastic pumps that cycle the water, the artist evokes the site, sounds and rhythms of a natural waterfall, while also exposing the mechanics behind its construction and movement. Blurring the lines between the natural and constructed, this work invites viewers to reconsider their own experiences of nature, contemplating not just what they see, but how they see.
Nigel Hall was born in Bristol, England in 1943. His abstract and geometric sculptures, typically made of steel, bronze or polished wood, are concerned with three-dimensional space, mass and line. Hall assigns as much importance to the voids and shadows present in his sculptures as to work’s material and shape. In Within and Without II (1999) two vertical, beveled bars are welded to the inside of a circle and face each other. The thinner element hangs from the top, while the thicker element juts up from the bottom. These bars frame and intersect one's view of the landscape seen through the circular tunnel, which is further varied by the viewer's point of view and by the changing light.
Born in 1962, Gary Hume is an English artist associated with a group called the YBA (Young British Artists) who came to prominence in the early 1990s. Back of Snowman (2001) is part of a larger series of snowman sculptures, paintings and prints that feature the simplified form of two stacked spheres as its subject. At once joyful and enigmatic, the sculpture and its title connote childhood memories of playing in the snow, while the sculpture’s simplified form also has an abstract aesthetic. Back of Snowman also embodies the playfulness characteristic of Hume’s work – the title gives the impression that there is a front and a back to the sculpture, when in reality, the rounded forms are identical from all sides.
Richard Long was born in 1945 in Bristol, England, where he currently lives and works. Since the 1960s, Long has radically redefined the boundaries of sculpture, making use of nature as both his subject and medium. Whether taking nature itself into the gallery, or in transforming the surface of the earth, Long and other land artists have pointed to the importance of our natural surroundings in ways that are utterly different from 18th or 19th century precedents. 13th Street Ellipse (2004) is made of variously sized pieces of red and green/blue slate, positioned on the ground within a predetermined elliptical perimeter. The stones are placed one-by-one within the ellipse in a haphazard pattern. They are fairly evenly spaced, not touching, and each stone is placed upright on its flat, planed side or edge. The work’s title comes from the address of the Sperone Westwater gallery in New York City where the artist first installed it in 2004 (415 West 13th Street).
British artist Marc Quinn (b. 1964) is known for making work that challenges the boundaries between art and science. Using a wide range of media including ice, glass, metal, marble and lead, Quinn’s work addresses the transience of human life through scientific knowledge and artistic expression. Standing at nearly 20 feet tall, Quinn’s The Incredible World of Desire (Phragmipedium Sedenii) (2003 – 2004) appears to the human eye like what a real orchid must look like to a bee. A highly detailed and colorful photographic image of a Phragmipedium Sedenii orchid has been transferred onto a stainless steel framework. Monumental from the front and back, the sculpture appears as a simple line in space when viewed from the side. Quinn has described the effect as resembling a "flower superimposed on to the landscape” in a way that reminds him “of an image stuck on the front of a child's plastic toy." Quinn’s Standing Figure (Beef) (2004) is an upright bronze sculpture of a cow’s carcass. In describing this series, Quinn has stated: “Somehow, it felt to me that these animals – whose bodies were never destined to remain whole, but were to be made invisible and divided into a thousand shrink-wrapped sausages or steaks – deserved an acknowledgement of their sacrifice. To me they are beautiful and terrible at the same time, something about being human learnt from animals.”
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