An exhibition of figurative art from the Irish Museum of Modern Art’s own Collection is now open to the public at IMMA. IMMA Collection: Figuration comprises 12 works ranging from two Picasso etchings dating from 1933 to Abigail O’Brien’s 1995 installation The Last Supper. The exhibition represents some of the ways in which modern artists have continued to portray the human form despite the 20th-century’s pre-occupation with abstraction. The body is seen in movement or at rest, as part of a narrative, as a vehicle for contemplation or in relation to art and culture. A wide range of media and techniques is also presented from drawing to print, casting to carving and from painting and photography to mixed media installation.
Aristide Mailliol’s Nude acts as a bridge between the tradition of academic life-drawing of a (usually female) subject as a preparation for a piece of sculpture and the more analytical and critical look at the same tradition in Picasso’s prints from the Vollard Suite. In these etchings a triangular relationship between the artist, the female model and art history is presented with dazzling and sardonic economy.
Kathy Prendergast’s Body Maps continue the tradition of drawing but to very different effect. In these the female body is equated to a fertile country, mapped for more effective control and colonisation, a more subjective commentary on the gender relationship presented in Picasso’s prints. Questions about existence itself are raised by Antony Gormley in Sick, a weighty leaden figure cast from the artist’s own body, simultaneously evoking inner, mental space while challenging physical space and the law of gravity.
The Last Supper by Abigail O’Brien features the human form in a series of cibachrome photographs of different moments in a wedding ritual. The body is also indirectly but powerfully implied in the real chair and table setting – all that remains after the celebration ends. The all female presence in the photographs offers a striking contrast to Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Last Supper.
Commenting on the exhibition, Catherine Marshall, Curator of IMMA’s Collection said, “Figuration, like the recent Literary Themes show one of a series of thematic exhibitions from the Collection, draws on a variety of artistic ideas and processes which the Collection offers and includes pieces from the Gordon Lambert and the O’Malley Collections. As with Literary Themes the exhibition will be shown at different venues around the country when it finishes at IMMA.”
IMMA Collection: Figuration continues at IMMA until 12 January 1997.
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