London

By Jones, Jonathan R. | Sculpture, December 2014 | Go to article overview

London


Jones, Jonathan R., Sculpture


"The Human Factor"

The Hayward Gallery

The problem with group shows is that the curator is powerfully present, and when a show attempts a survey or argument, it is hard not to be distracted by potential omissions or possible flaws. "The Human Factor" fell foul on both counts: there were omissions in the selection and holes in curator Ralph Rugoff's premise-that there is a "ubiquity of the figure in sculpture today."

It seemed arbitrary for the show to include 25 artists and survey the last 25 years of artistic production. And why represent some artists with just one work, but include three by others? The featured artists were not "of" the past 25 years in the sense that they belong to the same generation (Paul McCarthy was born in 1954, while Andro Wekua was born in 1977). Finally, the show's premise that the last quarter century represents a return to the human figure seemed in itself to be questionable.

Given the argument underpinning "The Human Factor," it is surprising that British artists Jake and Dinos Chapman, Antony Gormley, and Marc Quinn were not included. And there were omissions from a broader international frame, too: Where were Elmgreen and Dragset, Ron Mueck, and Anna-Maria Pacheco? In his catalogue essay, James Lingwood discusses one such omission, Stephan Balkenhol, who has used figurative sculpture to question the status of public statuary.

The focus on sculpture seemed in itself to get in the way, both in terms of how the viewer perceived the work and in terms of how the artists themselves locate their output. For example, Katharina Fritsch describes her work as "making three-dimensional pictures." Elsewhere, it seemed that image-making is more important to the artists than the making of sculpture. A work by Cady Nolan, who often uses photography, featured the infamous photograph of John F. Kennedy's alleged assassin Lee Har - vey Oswald at the point of murder. Likewise Martin Honert's English Teacher (2010) and Photo (1993) pun on the conventions of photography and problematize the relation of two to three dimensions in a form of artmaking that could only questionably be called sculpture. …

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