Presented by: Art Gallery of South Australia
Reviewed 8 March 2017
This contemporary exhibition gives the audience an opportunity to contrast the beauty and talent of famed nineteenth century French sculptor Auguste Rodin with works by 65 modern and contemporary artists from around the world who have also explored the human figure.
Versus Rodin is made up of seven different rooms that each focus on a different theme: “The classical body”, “The fragmented body”, “The erotic body”, “The body across space and time”, “The emotive body”, “The mind body” and finally “The mortal body”. These rooms have been curated around one or more of Rodin’s sculptures from the Art Gallery of South Australia’s collection, and offered for comparison with more contemporary works.
We know Rodin for his ability to boldly re-interpret and expand on the realism of classical Greek sculpture. His reductionist technique gave greater voice to the clay itself and his own individual interpretation of the human body. His ability to capture emotion and movement in matter gave spiritual depth and a sense of liberation to classical sculptural forms.
The exhibition features a range of mediums, from photographs and film, to sketches and (of course) sculptures. The sculptures themselves range in materials from the traditional bronze to timber, wax, metal, fibreglass, foam and even materials such as silk. Added to this is the sheer diversity of ideas and artistic interpretations of these themes which leaves the viewer excitedly unsure of what they will encounter next.
Gallery 4: “The body across space and time”, has been set out in an unusual way that forces you to look up at the works and pays homage to Rodin’s Meudon studio and its series of raised stages. Here the focus is purely sculptural and allows for direct comparisons between Rodin’s expressively representational pieces to far more abstract, post-figurative forms. Human shapes take on identities drawn from compilations of cubes, assembled bodies of rocks and forms seemingly more architectural than human. For some viewers their understanding of sculpture will be redefined.
Gallery 6: “The mind body” exhibits Rodin’s revolutionary representation of the human face through his busts and the emotions and thoughts that they sought to capture beyond just physical accuracy. These are complimented by more modern interpretations of busts and other portraiture; particularly interesting is Gillian Wearing’s mask-wearing, alter-ego exploration of significant artistic figures.
A slight personal disappointment was the exclusion of any of South Australia’s best sculptor John Dowie. His praying mantis-like sculpture of Robert Helpman would have been a wonderful comparison with one of Rodin’s emotive figures. Similarly a super-realistic sculpture from either Patricia Piccinini or Rod Mueck would have enriched the sculptural journey.
Curator, Leigh Rob, has put together a fascinating artistic journey stimulated by Rodin that offers Adelaide audiences a unique artistic experience.
Reviewed by Georgina Smerd
Your Twitter: @Georgie_xox
Venue: Art Gallery of South Australia, North Terrace, Adelaide
Season: 4 March – 2 July
Tickets: $8 – $18