Magazine article Artforum International

Inge King

Magazine article Artforum International

Inge King

Article excerpt

Inge King's sculptures are an intensely cosmopolitan revision of Modernist abstraction. Her recent bronze constructions connote the body in a weirdly literal montage of cubist space and anthropomorphic silhouette. Until 1989, it seemed that King would continue to embellish the signs of high Modernism--impersonal surfaces, industrial materials, and geometric forms. In parallel with the reductive teleology of Modernism, she had simplified her sculptures. From the evidence of this retrospective, however, it is clear that her work always embodied a contrary tendency towards narrative complication. The most severe, resistant materials had therefore been King's license to fetishize absolute constraint. In bronzes like Joi de vivre, 1989, extravagant gesture becomes the metaphor for mutable thought.

Despite a lifetime of manufacture outdoors, King's sculptures are museum objects par excellence. The works since 1989 show that the artist was aware of how institutionalized this monumentality was, and how bureaucratic the spirituality of Formalism. King's sculptures have always suggested the quirky interchangeability of assemblage. Despite an obvious austerity, her consistent preference for unstable figurative metaphor suggests improvisation more than reduction.

Because of the breadth of her career at a time when similarly ambitious women sculptors were a distinct oddity, King has been an impressive role model for younger women artists. She is also a contradictory figure, because of her apparent unequivocal projection of uncompromisingly Modernist virtues like formal purity. The Women's Art Movement, as it developed in Australia in the '70s, often criticized the valorization of power inherent in Modernist purity--King's sculptures of the '70s and '80s tread a tightrope: her sculptures persist as part of an intellectual climate that privileged spatial effects over interpersonal discourse. …

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