Academic journal article The Sculpture Journal

Moore Rodin

Academic journal article The Sculpture Journal

Moore Rodin

Article excerpt

Moore Rodin, Henry Moore Foundation, Perry Green, 29 March-27 October 2013; Compton Verney, War wickshire, 15 February-31 August 2014 Anita Feldman, with Hélène Pinet, Mary Moore and François Blanchetère, Moore Rodin Perry Green, Henr y Moore Foundation, 2013, 143 pp., 157 illustrations, £17.50. ISBN 978 0 906909 31 7

An indignant Daily Mail blogger demanded to know of Moore Rodin: 'Who on earth thought putting these two artists together in an exhibition would be a good idea - it defies belief. Their styles are completely different!'1 Although such a challenge would probably appeal more to a Guardian reader, I hope that he or she will put it to the test. The sculptors' considerable stylistic differences certainly make their coupling all the more fascinating, challenging and only rarely unconvincing. The clever, anonymous dictum that 'Moore is Rodin after Cubism' (p. 9) is a powerful answer to the blogger, even if it only goes part way. The curator and principal catalogue author, Anita Feldman, explores their respective similarities and differences. In a single deft paragraph she observes that 'Moore's grounded, weighty forms are tireless in their stasis, while Rodin's sculptures articulate the movement and muscular physicality of the human body' (p. 9). She then notes their 'many common threads and sculptural concerns [...] from a shared interest in Michelangelo, to the depiction of pressure and tension beneath the surface, and the fragmentation and compaction of the human form. [...] Above all, a fundamental humanism underpins their achievement' (p. 13).

While we should avoid playing off one party (the magic modeller) against another (the stolid carver), there is a near irresistible temptation to appraise Rodin's invasion of the Perry Green 'home turf', particularly as this is the first time that another artist has been exhibited alongside Moore in the location. Moore benefits from an inbuilt advantage, as many of his sculptures were specifically intended for landscape display and that of Perry Green in particular. Yet a terrific curatorial coup is the loan of Rodin's Monument to the Burghers of Calais (1889; cast 1905-08), which has been removed from its pedestal beside the Houses of Parliament and installed in a Hertfordshire meadow. The viewer is thus enabled to do what Rodin proposed in his famous interview with Paul Gsell (1911), and eyeball the tormented protagonists. In the catalogue Feldman claims that the Calais master version was positioned directly on the ground in 1894, although in fact this only happened in the 1920s. Like Rodin's (and Moore's) oft-cited proletarian upbringings, which are aired yet again here, it constitutes something of a romantic modernist myth.2 The neighbouring exhibit is Moore's Three Piece Sculpture Vertebrae (1968-69) whose semi-abstract shapes are intended to echo the procession of the Burghers, inviting the viewer 'to walk among them as if exploring colossal ruins' (pp. 83, 85). Yet so great are their visual and indeed stylistic differences (not to mention Moore's probable unawareness of the potential parallel) that this ambitious, even brave, juxtaposition does not entirely convince. Perhaps, though, there is a slightly subversive subtext, whereby Rodin's energetic and heartfelt modelling is answered by Moore's impersonal, glossy and corporatist late look.

A more successful instance where the viewer is compelled to do the hard work is found inside the gallery, in a display of fragments and torsos by both sculptors. Rodin's Torso of a Seated Woman (before 1899) is perfectly answered by Moore's Pointed Torso. The eye then turns to the latter's more complex Architectural Project and Two Piece Points: Skull (all 1969), whose jaw becomes the stylized hips (and at a pinch the breasts) of the Pointed Torso. Moore had obviously studied Rodin's daring fragmentation and rearrangements of body parts to convey whole new meanings. He does so with far greater fastidiousness and consistency than Rodin, whose antics came perilously close to stage magic tricks rather than the anticipation of the Surrealists by half a century that the catalogue vaunts. …

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