Wednesday, 16 February 2011
MODERN BRITISH SCULPTURE AT THE ROYAL ACADEMY
The first room of the exhibition has no sculpture on show, however it is dominated by a towering eight meter high model of the Cenotaph, designed by Edwin Lutyens, the curators offer the Cenotaph as the first 'sculpture', suggesting that perhaps it was the first act of minimalist sculpture. The Cenotaph is surrounded by Jacob Epstein's Cycle of Life, the room is titled Monumentalising Life and Death.
The exhibition then leads you through a room full of pieces loaned from the British Museum and the V&A, a varied collection of sculptures displaying traditional techniques and the importance of 'truth to materials'.
The galleries that follow exhibit works such as Jacob Epstein's Adam, a dominating sexually masculine piece that demands complete attention.
Other stand out works included Alfred Gilbert's Jubilee Monument to Queen Victoria, his sculpture is lavish and gaudy. Queen Victoria sits in the gallery with three other sculptures, all made by one time presidents of The Academy, Frederic Lord Leighton, Charles Wheeler and Phillip King.
Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore fill a gallery with two large works, this room leads to the galleries Environmental Construction and Early One Morning. From here you enter a gallery challenging conventional sculpture and referencing british landscape including works by Richard Long and Carl Andre.
In one of the final galleries Jeff Koon's vitrine, covered in dust and not quite straight, stands opposite Damien Hirst's Let's Eat Outdoors Today, mirroring certain similarities including cubic form, Hirst's installation makes reference to british social class and behavior. Unfortunately the scene presented within the vitrine was impaired by the lack of attention to detail, it was obvious that elements of the piece were fabricated - the flies were not feeding off the decapitating cows head nor the left over meat on the barbec
ue, they were in fact eating from petri dishes placed on the ground. The fly killer was also not switched on the day we visited.
Urs Fischer's sculpture hanging overhead echoed Koon's suspended object and mirrored the supposed decay occurring in Hirst's piece.
One of the final works I found the most engaging was a film about Richard Wentworth's photographic practice, Making Do and Getting By. A series of photographs depicting placements of objects he has come across accidentally - cups holding open windows, ladders blocking doorways, 'My work comes from chance encounter'.
I felt, with the exception of a handful of works, the exhibition was a huge disappointment. You expect The Academy to be one of the leading environments to view art. It really did seem that the curators had to pull this exhibition together with anything they could get their hands on, it was quite obvious that they had to make do with what they were lent, it seemed it wasn't conciuosly chosen. It was not a strong collection of works for such a major show and we all wonder where some of our great bristsh sculptors were.