What does the most challenging figurative sculpture look like today?
The Hayward Gallery’s Southbank Centre attempts to answer this question with The Human Factor: The Figure in Contemporary Sculpture, featuring work by 25 international artists, including Rachel Harrison. Debra Lennard writes, “The work’s main element is a painted concretion, but in this case it forms a garish bulwark, a ruined safeguard for the small body that cavorts beside it. The figure itself is two-faced, a Janus-like kidult he/she. Depending on which way you approach it, you are met with either the calm, bespectacled face of shop-window-mannequin womanhood, or the smirking mask of Dick Cheney, 46th Vice President of the United States, perpetrator of what many consider to be the biggest foreign policy blunder of modern times, and codenamed ‘Angler’ by the US Secret Service. In Harrison’s assemblages, the title is as much part of the work as any of its other elements. As she herself has said, ‘a title is an object; it is another place where I can add a “thing.”‘ In Jack Lemmon, the riffs on lemon as a color and as slang for a defective person are as significant as the reference to the great comic actor, who dressed in drag to escape the mob in Some Like it Hot (1959), and was known as ‘Dickhead’ in one of his later roles.”
The Human Factor: The Figure in Contemporary Sculpture brings together the work of over 25 leading international artists, in whose practice the human form plays a central role. Over the past 25 years, artists have reinvented figurative sculpture by looking to earlier movements in art history as well as imagery from contemporary culture. Setting up dialogues with modernist as well as classical and archaic models of art, these artists engage and confront the question of how we represent “the human” today. In these works, bodily forms hover between familiarity and an unsettling otherness, between signs of presence and absence, agency and objectification, as artists find novel ways to question our commonplace codes of subjectivity and to challenge our impulse to identify with the anthropomorphic. Eschewing concerns related to psychological portraiture, these artists use the figure as a catalyst for evoking far-ranging content, including subjects spanning political violence and mortality to sexuality and voyeurism. A unique survey of contemporary figurative sculpture, this profusely illustrated volume features works by Pawel Althamer, Frank Benson, Huma Bhabha, Maurizio Cattelan, Urs Fischer, Katharina Fritsch, Ryan Gander, Isa Genzken, Rachel Harrison, Georg Herold, Thomas Hirschhorn, Martin Honert, Pierre Huyghe, Jeff Koons, Paul McCarthy, John Miller, Cady Noland, Ugo Rondinone, Thomas Schütte, Yinka Shonibare, Paloma Varga Weisz, Mark Wallinger, Rebecca Warren, Andro Wekua and Cathy Wilkes, among others.
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