The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘sculptures’

Security Guard

November 12, 2014 | by

Duane Hanson, Security Guard, 1990, autobody filler, polychromed in oil, mixed media, with accessories, 71" x 26" x 13". © The Estate of Duane Hanson. Photography by Robert McKeever. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.

Duane Hanson’s Security Guard is on display at Gagosian Gallery’s Park and Seventy-fifth Street location through December 3. Hanson, who died in 1996, is known for his doggedly realistic sculptures of Joe and Jane Sixpack: the paunchy, unremarkable janitors, shoppers, joggers, tourists, and deliverymen of the world. Hanson’s working-class men and women are always in some form of repose, wearing expressions that range from the melancholic to the merely phlegmatic. These are people with whom the world has had its way—people used to being seen through. They have body hair. They have hangnails and bruises, varicose veins.

Hanson’s sculptures, given the commonness of their subjects, are almost suspiciously accessible, and so the temptation is to dismiss them as condescending or facile—or just tacky, a bid for the same kind of gee-whiz mimesis on display at Madame Tussaud’s. They are, after all, uncanny likenesses, and it’s easy to get tripped up on that, or to marvel at the painstaking craftsmanship. Hanson made casts from real people, and for maintenance he’d send envelopes of human hair to museums with instructions on how to attach it properly; he went to great lengths to produce convincing skin tones. All that’s very impressive, but it’d have you think the sculptures are just workmanlike forays into photorealism.

And in the wrong setting, they may well be. I could imagine how a roomful of Hanson’s work might register as taunting rather than haunting—in aggregate, the statues could lose their subtlety, all but daring you to appreciate their lifelikeness. But Gagosian Gallery has done a shrewd thing with Security Guard: they’ve put him on his own. He’s leaning against the wall of an otherwise empty space, patrolling nothing, alone. You can see him in there from the street.

“My art is not about fooling people,” Hanson once said. “It’s the human attitudes I’m after—fatigue, a bit of frustration, rejection. To me, there is a kind of beauty in all this.”

By himself, hand in pocket, walkie-talkie at the ready, surrounded by white walls and looking at none of them, Security Guard evokes the whole spectrum of Weltschmerz. Stare at him for sixty seconds and you see a bored, stoical man, an intimate of blankness, maybe solving a Rubik’s Cube in his head or thinking about supper. Stare at him for three minutes and you think, Maybe a widower. Stare at him for five minutes and you want to jot down the number of a suicide hotline, press it into his breast pocket. Take lunch, you want to say with a clap on his shoulder, Go out and get some air.

But he won’t move. As the critic Sebastian Smee wrote of another Hanson piece, “He is not waiting for death, exactly. But death sure is what his life has in mind for him. And for us.”

3 COMMENTS

The Inquisitive Fallacy

May 23, 2014 | by

A professor’s unlikely quest for busts of Alexander Pope.

12-Unknown_William Kurtz Wimsatt

Unknown photographer, William Kurtz Wimsatt, circa 1961, © National Portrait Gallery, London

1-Roubiliac_Alexander Pope

Louis François Roubiliac, Alexander Pope, c. 1760, marble, Rothschild Foundation

front

Louis François Roubiliac, Alexander Pope, 1741, marble, Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Paul Mellon in memory of the British art historian Basil Taylor (1922-1975)

3-Roubiliac_Alexander Pope

Louis François Roubiliac, Alexander Pope, c. 1738, terracotta, Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham

8-Roubiliac_Alexander Pope

Louis François Roubiliac, Alexander Pope, c. 1760, plaster, The Trustees of the British Museum

11-Roubiliac_Alexander Pope

Louis François Roubiliac, Alexander Pope, 1738, marble, Temple Newsam House, Leeds

B1976.7.135

Joseph Nickolls, Pope’s Villa, Twickenham, c. 1755, oil on canvas, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

B1981.25.87

Adrien Carpentiers, Louis François Roubiliac Modelling His Monument to Shakespeare, between 1760 and 1761, oil on canvas, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

B1991.33

Studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller, Alexander Pope Profile, Crowned with Ivy, c. 1721, oil on canvas, Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Margaret Wimsatt in memory of William Kurtz Wimsatt Jr.

9-Pope_Works of Pope

Alexander Pope, The works of Mr. Alexander Pope, Vol I (London: Printed by W. Bowyer, for Bernard Lintot between the Temple-Gates, 1717), title page, frontispiece of Pope by Vertue after Jervas, inside front cover, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Fame and Friendship: Pope, Roubiliac, and the Portrait Bust in Eighteen-Century Britain,” recently on view at the Yale Center for British Art, tells a curious tale of Alexander Pope’s legacy, focusing on the strange fervor that continues to surround busts and portraits of him. Pope, whose birthday was earlier this week, was a household name, at least in one sector of British society. He was the first English poet to publish two volumes of his own collected works while living—and with the publication of the first volume, he also became the first English author to sustain himself entirely on the proceeds of his work. And he didn’t lead a meager existence. Pope was able to lease a sizable villa near Richmond, a painting of which was on view in Yale’s exhibition.

For any writer, these achievements would’ve been no small feat, but they’re especially impressive in light of Pope’s many obstacles. He was a Catholic at a time when Catholics weren’t allowed to live within ten miles of London or Westminster or to attend university; and he was beset with health problems that led to a visible hunchback and permanently stunted his height. Even so, Pope became a celebrated member of the British literary canon—someone whose very image evoked intellectual achievement.

Paintings and busts of Pope were commissioned for wealthy families and artistic friends—they conferred status among men of letters. According to Joseph Roach, Sterling Professor of Theater and English at Yale, when Voltaire visited England in 1727, he marveled that he saw Pope’s portrait in “twenty noblemen’s houses.” The placement of these busts was telling of the poet’s reputation; he was displayed with such notable British intellectuals as Laurence Sterne and Isaac Newton.

“Fame and Friendship” assembled an intriguing array of these busts, made of stately marble or—in the case of a petite, mass-produced work—porcelain. At the center of the collection are eight busts of Pope by French émigré sculptor Louis François Roubiliac, created between 1738 and 1760. Though they were made over the course of twenty-two years, they carry certain hallmarks: a telltale droop beneath Pope’s eyes, a marked thinness in his cheeks, an inquisitive gaze, and a slender nose. In Roubiliac’s skillful hands, the signs of Pope’s infirmity are presented instead as characteristics befitting a poetic countenance, with all the sensitivity that poetry implies. Read More »

1 COMMENT