Versus Rodin: Bodies across space and time

AGSA Auguste Rodin, Pierre de Wissant, monumental nude, c.1886–87Regarded today as the artist who ignited an artistic revolution that changed the direction of sculpture, the Art Gallery of South Australia presents Versus Rodin: Bodies across space and time, currently on display until 2 July 2017.

Auguste Rodin revolutionised sculpture and the representation of the human body. His expressive vision, his rejection of narrative and embrace of process, seen through his experimental and seemingly unfinished surfaces – is the wellspring for this major exhibition, which brings the work of Rodin into dialogue with over 200 modern and contemporary works of art, 100 years since the artist’s death.

“Through a series of duets and duels, Rodin will be brought into vivid conversation with leading modern and contemporary artists who have similarly challenged our understanding of the human condition,” says Art Gallery of South Australia Director, Nick Mitzevich.

Curated by Leigh Robb, Versus Rodin: Bodies across space and time will be anchored by key Rodin works of art from across Australia including the Art Gallery’s significant collection of 20 bronze sculptures, the largest collection in the Southern Hemisphere. Other featured artists include Louise Bourgeois, Antony Gormley, William Kentridge, Bharti Kher, Rosemary Laing, Ugo Rondinone and Kara Walker among others.

A full century after his death, the French sculptor’s radical reappraisal of the figure continues to fascinate audiences and scholars alike. Rodin broke the sculptural mould. Discarding the staid academic attitudes of the establishment, he developed a mode of expression that privileged creativity and process, and which spoke to the anxieties and uncertainties of a new age.

The Parisian’s alchemical talent turned matter into movement, and he created works that crackled with energy and pulsed with emotion. His sculptures also questioned received notions of style, taste and decorum. The world had never seen anything like it, and, when he died at the age of seventy-seven, Rodin was a towering figure in European art.

Fast-forward to our own image-saturated era, one which seems to be increasingly preoccupied with the body, and Rodin’s game-changing focus on the human figure is perhaps more relevant than ever before. Exclusive to the Art Gallery of South Australia, Versus Rodin: bodies across space and time explores this legacy, drawing on the Gallery’s collection of bronzes by Rodin, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.

“The history of art can be viewed as a history of bodies and gazes,” says curator, Leigh Robb. “Versus Rodin is an exhibition of bodies – whole, partial, composite, transitional, morphing and synthetic. Collectively, they create an arena of figures, busts, masks, muscles, bones and skins, a theatre of anatomy in which to contemplate the representation of the body and the perception of the self.”

“The Gallery’s collection of works by Rodin is the axis around which revolve more than 200 works from international and Australian artists, including a number of works commissioned for the exhibition. Themes explored include the classical, fragmented, erotic, emotional and social body.”

“In addition Versus Rodin presents an opportunity to delve into the collection and bring to light significant modern and contemporary works, some of which are displayed for the first time, others which have not been seen for decades.”

The Art Gallery of South Australia acquired twenty bronze sculptures and one drawing by Auguste Rodin in early 1996, following an offer by prominent collector and arts patron William Bowmore, AO, OBE, to sell this part of his important private collection to a public institution. The works were purchased by the South Australian Government, with able assistance from the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation, as a gift to the Gallery.

In an added gesture of goodwill to accompany the acquisition, Bowmore donated to the Gallery sixteen superb paintings by the likes of Garofalo, Ambrosius Benson, Gerrit Dou, Francesco Guardi, Thomas Lawrence and John Constable, works which considerably enhanced the collection’s European holdings.

Highlights of the Gallery’s Rodin collection include Pierre de Wissant and Andrieu d’Andres from the sculptural group Monument to the Burghers of Calais; The Three Shades from Rodin’s never completed The Gates of Hell; The Walking Man; Iris, Messenger of the Gods and Flying Figure.

Versus Rodin: Bodies across space and time
Art Gallery of South Australia, North Terrace, Adelaide
Exhibition continues to 2 July 2017
Admission fees apply

For more information, visit: www.artgallery.sa.gov.au for details.

Image: Auguste Rodin, France, 1840–1917, Pierre de Wissant, monumental nude, c.1886–87 (Coubertin Foundry, cast 1985), Paris, bronze, 215.0 x 100.0 x 60.0 cm, William Bowmore AO OBE Collection. Gift of the South Australian Government, assisted by the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation 1996, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide.

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